Blair strikes humble note as he returns - and promotes Brown allies in reshuffle

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Tony Blair tried to restore his battered authority by reshuffling his Cabinet after seeing his majority cut by almost 100 in the general election.</p>Although Blair allies insisted the "bloody nose" he suffered at the voters' hands would not bring forward his planned departure from Downing Street, some allies of Gordon Brown called for an early handover of power to the Chancellor.</p>Mr Brown's enhanced influence was shown when two of his key allies were promoted. Des Browne, the immigration minister, becomes Chief Treasury Secretary, while Douglas Alexander becomes minister for Europe, with a right to attend cabinet meetings.</p>David Blunkett, who resigned as home secretary last December, returns to the Cabinet as Work and Pensions Secretary. Alan Johnson, who held that post, takes charge of a new Department for Productivity, Energy and Industry, a revamped Department of Trade and Industry, which will review the future of nuclear power. The other newcomers to the Cabinet are Blairites - John Hutton, who takes over the Cabinet Office, and David Miliband, who becomes Minister of Communities and Local Government.</p>The reshuffle was delayed amid wrangling between Mr Blair and two ministers. John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, saw off a plan to remove local government from his empire. Then Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, objected to a plan to install Andrew Adonis, Mr Blair's adviser on education, as her schools minister with a seat in the House of Lords.</p>John Reid, previously the health secretary, becomes Defence Secretary, a post which he has long coveted. The important health post goes to Patricia Hewitt, the former trade and industry secretary.</p>Geoff Hoon moves from defence to become Leader of the Commons, previously held by Peter Hain, who becomes Northern Ireland Secretary and retains his post as Welsh Secretary.</p>There were fears that Labour's projected majority of 66 would leave Mr Blair "in office, not in power" and force him to water down plans for a new round of public service reforms. An analysis by The Independent shows that re-elected Labour MPs rebelled on issues like immigration, anti-terrorism laws and identity cards in sufficient numbers in the last parliament to deny the Government a majority if they oppose planned legislation on these issues.</p>Mr Blair struck a sombre and contrite tone outside No 10, in sharp contrast with the euphoria after he swept to power in 1997 and won a majority of 167 in 2001. After the "Iraq effect" was blamed for a poor Labour showing in London and the South-east, the Prime Minister promised to give priority to domestic issues in his third term. He understood that the Iraq war had been a "deeply divisive issue" for the country, but insisted that people now wanted to "move on".</p>He added: "I have listened and I have learned. And I think I have a very clear idea of what the British people now expect from this Government for a third term. And I want to say to them very directly, that I, we, the Government are going to focus relentlessly now on the priorities the people have set for us."</p>Neal Lawson, a former Gordon Brown aide and chair of the Compass pressure group, called for a leadership election as soon as was feasible.</p>He said: "If we are to win again - with a sense of purpose - then the Labour mission must be renewed in government. This is clearly impossible under Tony Blair. He must stand down at a time and in a way that serves the interests of the Labour Party before it serves him. This is not about his place in history but Labour's place in the future.</p>"Let's be honest. If he had stood down before this election then Labour would have held on to many more seats last night."</p>New faces in the Cabinet</b></p>David Blunkett</p>One of Tony Blair's most trusted allies has returned to the Cabinet after an absence of less than five months and has been pitched into one of the most sensitive jobs in the Government. As the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, he will inherit a bulging and contentious in-tray including reform of the pensions system and incapacity benefit. He will also take charge of the crisis-hit Child Support Agency. He made little secret of his ambition to return to Cabinet and Mr Blair had hinted that a return was in the offing.</p>David Miliband</p>For most people in Westminster it was always a question of when, not if, David Miliband would enter Cabinet. The 39-year-old, who was given a new Cabinet-level brief in charge of communities and local government, entered Parliament four years ago. In reality he has been at the heart of the New Labour project for 11 years since Tony Blair appointed him head of his policy unit in opposition. Born into the Labour aristocracy as the son of the Marxist historian Ralph Miliband, few doubted that he would end up at the top table.</p>John Hutton</p>A close friend of Alan Milburn, John Hutton has been knocking at the cabinet door for several years. As a health minister, Mr Hutton has long been identified as ripe for promotion. But the MP for Barrow and Furness, a former polytechnic lecturer, was considered such an asset to the department that he was kept there. The straight-talking Blairite - who celebrated his 50th birthday yesterday, on the same day as the Prime Minister turned 52 - admits that Labour has more work to do, on poverty for example.</p>Des Browne</p>As Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Des Browne will serve as deputy to his near namesake and close political ally. The softly spoken MP arrives in the Cabinet after a short spell as immigration minister, during which time he tried to take some of the heat out of the explosive issue. A barrister by training, he was elected in 1997, reportedly after Gordon Brown tipped him for the seat of Kilmarnock and Loudon. Mr Browne, 54, was made a Northern Ireland minister in 2001 and then appointed as the employment minister. </p>

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