Head of government task force says Blair 'is not interested in delivery'

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Tony Blair is "shallow", Alan Milburn, the Secretary of State for Health, is "moody" and David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, needs to be watched "like a hawk". Goodness only how Lord Haskins would describe the Cabinet if he was being really candid.

The Labour peer, head of the Government's Better Regulation Task Force, certainly slashed through the red tape of political nicety with a frank and fearless assessment of ministerial ranks yesterday.

Clearly out to dispel the frequent charge that he is the original "Tony's crony", the quango king and former chairman of Northern Foods told the New Statesman that he had no time for many of those at the top of the New Labour tree.

In a blisteringly honest tour of Whitehall's finest, Lord Haskins said that the Prime Minister was a "charming fellow" but added that "his mistake has always been that he wants everyone to love him".

He revealed that Robin Cook, the Leader of the Commons and former foreign secretary, had suggested that Mr Blair was "a broad river that runs shallow". He said: "I thought that was an interesting analogy, something in it."

Adding his own character analysis, Lord Haskins said that "Blair is not a big political thinker. That's the difficulty with Blair. He's not interested in delivery." With the Prime Minister having staked his political reputation and entire second term on just that delivery, Downing Street is not likely to have the red carpet ready for his next visit.

Lord Haskins ventured that the Home Secretary had to be monitored very closely. "He's a strange mixture, David. One minute, he'll be doing something draconian, Victorian, moral stuff and the next he will do something really adventurous and bright."

Mr Milburn failed to escape lightly. "He has a terrible reputation for being moody and quick-tempered. I remember him as mild and genial. As soon as he got into the Cabinet, he became a rottweiler."

Some suggest that Lord Haskins' bitterness might be connected with the fact that his most recent report was rejected by the Department of Trade and Industry. Others think he's simply speaking his mind.