Harman tipped to replace Mowlam

Click to follow
Indy Politics

Sacked cabinet minister Harriet Harman is poised to make a comeback after Tony Blair's top tier of ministers shed yet another woman last week. She is in line to take the top job in one of the high-spending departments such as health, social security or education.

Sacked cabinet minister Harriet Harman is poised to make a comeback after Tony Blair's top tier of ministers shed yet another woman last week. She is in line to take the top job in one of the high-spending departments such as health, social security or education.

The decision of the Cabinet Office Minister, Mo Mowlam, to stand down at the next election reopened criticism of the Prime Minister's apparent unwillingness to promote females to high-profile jobs.

Although Mr Blair's landslide election win in 1997 was largely gained because women switched allegiance to Labour, and he continues to insist that his administration is women-friendly, the Cabinet has only five female members, and just one, Clare Short, the International Development Secretary, is in a spending department.

The others - the Leader of the Commons, Margaret Beckett, the Leader of the Lords, Baroness Jay, and the chief whip, Ann Taylor - are in "administrative" roles.

Ms Harman, who had been hostile to returning to the fold after losing her job as Social Security Secretary, is now understood to be ready to step in.

Since Ms Mowlam's decision to bow out, senior Labour women have made known that they believe Mr Blair must act to ensure that his male-dominated government does not become a turn-off to women voters. Because of the backstabbing and hostile "briefings" which preceded Ms Mowlam's decision, some even feel he is in danger of appearing "anti-women".

One minister, who asked not to be named, said: "Tony looks like he can't stand women getting on - and maybe he can't - but to allow actions to flow from that would send out all the wrong signals to women."

Names being touted in Westminster as possible cabinet replacements for Ms Mowlam, include the Treasury minister, Patricia Hewitt, the minister for women, Tessa Jowell, and the local government minister, Hilary Armstrong. But Labour insiders believe a "quick fix" is the only option at present and want Mr Blair to bring back Ms Harman, a "well-known face who women out there think was a bit hard done by".

A female Labour MP said: "Mo was very popular with women. I think Tony will feel under pressure to replace Mo with a woman. But it would have to be a House of Commons and party connected person. A baroness would in no way be a substitute for Mo."

Ms Harman herself is understood to be ready to make a return to Cabinet; she has told friends she would "definitely" come back "for the right job".

Comments