Blair uses reshuffle to put own stamp on Shadow Cabinet: Brown stays as shadow Chancellor - Cook takes foreign affairs - Straw is shadow Home Secretary - Beckett moves to health

TONY BLAIR last night shuffled almost the whole of his top team, providing Labour with new faces in new jobs and setting his own stamp on the Shadow Cabinet.

Among the senior posts, only Gordon Brown, the shadow Chancellor, stayed in place. Robin Cook, who had wanted to stay in an economic portfolio, was moved to shadow Foreign Secretary, with Jack Cunningham swapped back the other way to take Mr Cook's trade and industry post.

Harriet Harman, the shadow Chief Secretary, was promoted to shadow Employment Secretary, the post vacated by John Prescott when he became deputy leader - a job which means she again faces Michael Portillo, who moved from Chief Secretary to Secretary of State for Employment in July's Cabinet reshuffle.

The moves ease a source of friction over economic policy, where Mr Cook's differing economic stance from Mr Brown was compounded by a tense personal relationship between the two. The Brown-Blair grip on economic policy was expected to be tightened further by the appointment of Andrew Smith, the Oxford East MP, who did not even stand for the Shadow Cabinet, as shadow Chief Secretary, leap-frogging up the Treasury team over both Alistair Darling and Nick Brown.

However, Mr Cook will retain an economic voice. Mr Blair's office made it clear that he, Mr Prescott and Mr Brown would work together closely on Europe and the post-Maastricht debates about a single currency, while Mr Cook would join the other two and Mr Blair in a new four-strong economic sub-committee of the Shadow Cabinet.

A further sign of Mr Blair's determination to place the people he wanted in the jobs he wanted them in, came with his treatment of Margaret Beckett, the former deputy leader, who was given the Health portfolio.

After her performance as acting leader and her powerful showing in the Shadow Cabinet elections where she came second to Mr Cook with 170 votes, Mrs Beckett's friends believed she was entitled to a top-rank job - ideally the shadow Home Secretary post Mr Blair vacated on becoming leader.

That, however, went to Jack Straw, the former environment spokesman and Mr Blair's campaign manager for the leadership. Mrs Beckett's supporters were mollified by the high-profile nature of the health job, Mr Blair making it clear he wanted policy developed. Critics of David Blunkett, the former health spokesman, feel he did too little to adapt Labour's policy to the realities of the NHS changes.

Mr Blunkett swaps health for the key Education portfolio where his robust views about standards are expected to reflect those of Mr Blair. Ann Taylor, who was judged to have disappointed at the education job, becomes shadow Leader of the House, taking in addition, the Citizen's Charter portfolio.

Mr Blair has ended Kevin McNamara's seven-year stint as Northern Ireland spokesman from outside the Shadow Cabinet, giving the job to Mo Mowlam, a junior Northern Ireland spokesman between 1988 and 1989. The move is likely to be welcomed by Ulster's Unionist MPs who have long distrusted Mr McNamara's firm advocacy of a united Ireland.

Michael Meacher will gain a higher profile as he moves from Citizen's Charter to Transport, replacing Frank Dobson who moves from Transport to a reunited Local Government and Environment portfolio. Chris Smith moves from the 'green' part of environment to National Heritage, taking a special responsibility for information superhighways.

Joan Lestor was granted her wish to move from children to Overseas Development, while Gavin Strang retains Agriculture, but within the Shadow Cabinet. Donald Dewar (Social Security), George Robertson (Scotland), David Clark (Defence) and Ron Davies (Wales) retain their portfolios.

(Photographs omitted)

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