Foster quits over Cabinet post snub

Tony Blair suffered his first ministerial resignation yesterday, just four days after coming into office.

Derek Foster, a former Labour chief whip and Shadow Cabinet member, was clearly angry that he had not been offered the Cabinet post he said he had been promised. He decided to stand down despite having accepted a job as Minister of State at the Office of Public Service, and it is understood he may now stand for election as Deputy Speaker.

"On reflection, after Saturday's appointments, I felt I might have more to offer in other ways and I will have an announcement to make in due course. I am perfectly happy with the outcome," he said.

Peter Kilfoyle, an education spokesman in Opposition, becomes Public Services Minister, but he takes on simply a junior ministerial rank.

Mr Foster, an elected chief whip, was one of many senior Labour figures who were bitterly disappointed at being offered jobs less senior to the ones that they shadowed in opposition.

Andrew Smith, the shadow transport secretary and Michael Meacher, shadow minister for environmental protection, were also in the Shadow Cabinet but not in the Cabinet.

Further down the ranks, a large number of junior shadow ministers are jobless or have more junior positions. Of 76 people who held Shadow Cabinet or ministerial positions, 17 have been demoted or sacked.

Both Janet Anderson, who was formerly shadow minister for women, and Graham Allen, a former spokesman on constitutional and environment matters, will go to the whip's office.

For the rest, the only posts left are in the whip's office or at PPS level, the very bottom rung of the ministerial ladder.

Among those who were still left without posts last night were Keith Vaz, former shadow minister for planning, Tom Pendry, former shadow minister for sport, and Lewis Moonie, another shadow minister at National Heritage.

Although Mr Blair has put a large number of women in his ministerial teams, several have been left out. Among them are Joan Ruddock, former shadow for environmental protection, Llin Golding, former shadow for food safety and agriculture and Ann Coffey, former shadow health minister.

However, there were jobs yesterday for Mark Fisher at heritage, Alf Dubbs, now Lord Dubbs, at Northern Ireland and for Andrew Hardie, QC, as Lord Advocate and life peer.

Some of the disappointed ones claimed yesterday that the system was unfair.

People who had previously worked for "big hitters" such as Gordon Brown or John Prescott could expect their former bosses to fight their corners for them, they said.

"It seems all this is done in a very random way. There's no assessment, there's no merit involved, it's who you know and if someone liked your face.

"No one actually sits down and says this is what we think about your performance," one of them said.

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