Brown prepares his foreign policy team

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Indy Politics

Gordon Brown is lining up the team of foreign affairs advisers he intends to appoint after succeeding Tony Blair as prime minister this summer.

Jon Cunliffe, a senior Treasury official, would move to Downing Street along with Mr Brown as his chief foreign affairs adviser. Although he is second permanent secretary at the Treasury in charge of macroeconomics, he has gained experience in foreign affairs as head of the Treasury's international and finance directorate and has regular contact with the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and G8 group of leading industrial nations.

Ivan Rogers, a former principal private secretary to Mr Blair, is expected to become Mr Brown's chief adviser on European affairs. He left Downing Street last year to go on secondment to Citybank amid speculation that Blair allies thought he was too close to Mr Brown.

The Chancellor has not decided who he would appoint as foreign secretary if he becomes prime minister but the leading contenders include Jack Straw, who was moved from the Foreign Office by Mr Blair last year and Hilary Benn, the International Development Secretary. The appointment of Mr Straw would mark a remarkable comeback after his demotion to Leader of the Commons.

One scenario is that he could swap jobs with Margaret Beckett, a surprise choice as Foreign Secretary last year. Mr Brown will not make a final decision about his foreign secretary until after Labour has chosen its next deputy leader, as that person might become deputy prime minister. Mr Benn has entered the race and Mr Straw could run.

Mr Blair has paved the way for a "regime change" among No 10's foreign policy experts by announcing that his two senior advisers would move on to new posts this summer. Sir Nigel Sheinwald, his chief foreign policy adviser, will become ambassador to the United States, and Kim Darroch, his principal adviser on European affairs, will become Britain's permanent representative in Brussels.

As part of a change of style from the Blair era, Mr Brown intends to rely more heavily on the advice of the Foreign Office when diplomatic posts are filled. Mr Blair has been accused of sidelining the Foreign Office.

Some commentators have raised questions about Mr Brown's apparent lack of foreign policies. But the Chancellor began to sketch out his approach in a television interview on Sunday in which he promised to "speak my mind" with President George Bush and defend the "British national interest". Mr Blair has been criticised for being too subservient to the US President.

Yesterday, Stephen Byers, the Blairite former cabinet minister, issued a thinly veiled warning to the Chancellor not to expect Labour "slavishly" to follow his policy agenda and said he hoped there would be a contest to succeed Mr Blair. "The Labour Party is not royalty and we don't go in for coronations," Mr Byers wrote in London's Evening Standard.

He called for an "open debate" about the way forward for the party after Mr Blair has gone. "It would be a huge mistake to try to stifle debate. The public wouldn't like it and the Labour Party would resent it," he said.

John Hutton, the Blairite Work and Pensions Secretary, echoed the call for an "open debate". "We must continue to face outwards not inwards throughout this period of change," he said. "The public may judge us harshly if we turn inwards on ourselves over the coming months rather than continuing to face outwards towards them and their concerns."

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