Glenys Kinnock has been dropped as Europe minister after only four months in the post as Gordon Brown attempts to go on the attack on the issue in the run-up to the general election.
In a surprise mini-reshuffle at the Foreign Office, the wife of the former Labour leader, Neil Kinnock, lost the Europe brief to Chris Bryant, a pro-European junior minister who is below her in the department's pecking order. He announced his new post on Twitter more than three hours before it was confirmed by Downing Street.
Mr Bryant will attack the Conservative Party's links with right-wing parties from Poland and Latvia in the European Parliament following David Cameron's decision to pull his MEPs out of the mainstream centre-right European People's Party. Baroness Kinnock, a former MEP, takes over the Africa brief at the Foreign Office from Lord Malloch-Brown, who has left the Government. She retains her £84,624-a-year salary as a minister of state.
Her surprise appointment as Europe minister in June was seen as an emergency measure after Caroline Flint, who held the post, walked out, accusing Mr Brown of using women ministers as "window dressing".
The European Union was on its long summer break for much of Baroness Kinnock's brief time in the post and ministers admitted privately that she had made no political impact on what is now a key issue.
Brown allies believe Mr Cameron is vulnerable on Europe, after the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, used his Labour conference speech to attack the Tories' allies in the European Parliament, who have been accused of anti-Semitism and homophobia. Mr Bryant will take forward Labour's efforts to accuse the Tory leader of weakening Britain's influence in Europe by leaving the group which includes the parties of the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, and the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.
However, Mr Brown was accused of downgrading Europe by replacing a middle-ranking minister of state with a junior minister.
The Prime Minister's spokesman insisted that Mr Brown was pleased with the performance of both Baroness Kinnock and Mr Bryant. He described the shake-up at the Foreign Office as a piece of "internal housekeeping" following Lord Malloch-Brown's departure.
There was embarrassment in government circles that Baroness Kinnock had been moved from the Europe job so quickly. Mark Francois, the Tories' Europe spokesman, said: "Chris Bryant is Labour's 12th Europe minister in as many years, proof of their failure to take European issues seriously. No wonder Labour's record on Europe is of retreat, not leadership."
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