Blair courts controversy by giving jobs to close allies

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Tony Blair risked a backlash last night by appointing one of his closest advisers and a wealthy Labour Party donor to ministerial posts as he completed his post-election reshuffle.

Tony Blair risked a backlash last night by appointing one of his closest advisers and a wealthy Labour Party donor to ministerial posts as he completed his post-election reshuffle.

Andrew Adonis, an arch-moderniser and the Downing Street adviser on education and public services, was made a junior Education minister in a clear signal Mr Blair intends to push through reforms in schools before he stands down.

Mr Adonis, dubbed "the real Education Secretary" by critics, was an architect of plans for university top-up fees and city academy schools. A former member of the Social Democratic Party, his appointment will anger traditionalist Labour MPs who want Mr Blair to water down his plans to implement an "unremittingly New Labour" agenda. Mr Adonis will be made a peer in order to allow him to join the Government.

Lord Drayson, a former boss of Powderject, has been appointed a junior Defence minister but will not draw a salary. He gave £500,000 to Labour within six weeks of being made a peer last year and had previously donated £100,000. His former company won a £32m contract to supply a smallpox vaccine for the Department of Health.

Mr Blair used the reshuffle to try to heal Labour's wounds over Iraq by recalling Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, who resigned from Government because of the war. He becomes a junior minister at the Department of Work and Pensions.

Karen Buck, an independent-minded backbencher who voted against the war and has rebelled on another nine occasions since 2001, was appointed a junior Transport minister.

The shake-up also offered a second chance to Beverley Hughes, who resigned as Immigration Minister 13 months ago after misleading MPs about visas for eastern Europeans. She returns in the post of Minister for Children.

In a balancing act, the Prime Minister promoted his own allies and supporters of Gordon Brown in a reshuffle that will be studied closely for the balance between the two camps.

Shaun Woodward, a Blairite and former Tory MP who defected to Labour, was made a junior Northern Ireland minister. Other Blairites moving upwards include James Purnell, a former Downing Street aide, who moved to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport; Jim Murphy, who joined the Cabinet Office; Liam Byrne, who entered Parliament last July in a by-election and joined the Department of Health; Andy Burnham, who joined the Home Office; and David Hanson, formerly Mr Blair's Parliamentary Private Secretary, who moved to the Northern Ireland Office.

Brown allies who won promotion included Nigel Griffiths, who becomes Deputy Leader of the Commons; Yvette Cooper, the new Housing and Planning Minister; John Healey moved up from Economic Secretary to Financial Secretary at the Treasury, and Ian Pearson, is appointed Trade Minister.

Blair aides said the aim of the shake-up was to reward talent rather than any factions within the party and to drive through public service reforms.

They pointed to promotions for ministers who had impressed in their previous jobs - Jane Kennedy, who is the new Health Minister, and Jacqui Smith, the new Schools Minister. The aides described Mr Adonis as someone with "talent and expertise" and Lord Drayson as "a man of ability" who would now be doing a "real job" in the Lords.

Harriet Harman moved from the post of Solicitor General to become Minister of State at the Department of Constitutional Affairs, led by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton. Her successor as Solicitor General is Mike O'Brien, who previously served at the DTI.

Kim Howells, the outspoken former Transport minister, was made the Foreign Office minister responsible for the Middle East. Malcolm Wicks took over the post of Energy Minister at a time when the Government will consider building a new generation of nuclear power stations. The new Higher Education Minister is Bill Rammell, who narrowly held his Harlow seat at the election. Jim Knight, who successfully defended Labour's most marginal seat in Dorset South, joined the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Ministers leaving the Government included Nick Raynsford, the Local Government Minister; Denis MacShane, the Europe Minister, and John Spellar at the Northern Ireland Office.

Mr Blair took his time as he carried out a sweeping reshuffle of the junior and middle ministerial positionns after criticism that he "botched" the shake-up of his Cabinet on Friday. Three Cabinet ministers, John Prescott, Charles Clarke and Ruth Kelly, are said to have defied Mr Blair's wishes and blocked moves affecting their departments. That fuelled the perception at Westminster that Mr Blair's authority is draining away .

Tomorrow Mr Blair will try to quash speculation that he might be forced to stand down long before he intends to quit in 2008.

Addressing Labour MPs at Westminster, he will say he intends to implement the reforms to public services outlined in Labour's manifesto and say the MPs have a duty to support them when they are put to the Commons. But in a hint that he will adopt a more consensual style, he is expected to acknowledge the need to "listen to and consult".

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