Labour puts stars into Treasury team

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Dawn Primarolo, Labour's shadow health minister, was yesterday moved into Gordon Brown's economic team in a front-bench re- shuffle which put some of Labour's brightest stars into Treasury and trade and industry positions.

The message from Tony Blair's first front-bench line-up appeared to echo Bill Clinton's presidential campaign of 'The Economy - Stupid', as Andrew Smith, the Oxford East MP, was confirmed as the shadow chief secretary, Alistair Darling remained as the City spokesman, and Hilary Armstrong, formerly John Smith's Parliamentary Private Secretary, was also moved into the Treasury team.

Brian Wilson, a rising star as the rail spokesman who had been tipped for a Shadow Cabinet place, and Lewis Moonie, the Kirkcaldy MP whose talents were seen to have been wasted in the science job, were moved into Jack Cunningham's trade and industry team to help prepare policies for government.

The surprise appointment of the vivacious and articulate Ms Primarolo, 39, MP for Bristol South, puts a firm left-winger into Gordon Brown's Treasury team in a move that her friends admitted was a 'make or break' transfer.

Her elevation was seen to parallel the highly successful appointment by John Smith before the last election of Margaret Beckett as shadow Chief Secretary.

Ms Primarolo's post is more junior, although she will cover VAT, and she was thrown in at the deep end yesterday replying to a Public Accounts Committee debate. But she provides Mr Brown with a sounding-board for left-wing views of Labour's economic policy which he sought in her appointment.

Ian McCartney, a key manager of John Prescott's campaign for the deputy leadership, is rewarded by being moved from number three at health to number two at employment beneath Harriet Harman - giving the left another voice in an economic brief.

Other notable appointments include Joan Ruddock, who had been Mr Blair's Home Office number three covering prisons, to be the chief spokesperson on green issues. She will take, outside the Shadow Cabinet, the role Chris Smith had within it.

Some of those promoted and some of the new intake were disappointed at Mr Blair's decision to follow tradition and not to give front-bench jobs to any of the 1992 intake of MPs. One said: 'It does seem a little bizarre. New Labour, New Britain, but same old faces.'

The Labour leader's office, however, let it be known that Mr Blair plans to parallel the Conservative approach of blooding talent in the whips office before promoting it to the front-bench, with the whips appointments being announced today.

Peter Mandelson, the party's former director of communications and close adviser to Mr Blair, was expected to head that list, his appointment likely to provoke a sharp clash of culture.

However, Peter Kilfoyle, the Liverpool MP who was the hammer of Militant and who took the Walton seat just before the last general election, was made the number three education spokesman.

(Photograph omitted)