Milburn agrees election role as Blair faces down Brown

Alan Milburn returned to the Cabinet to take up a new post in charge of Labour policy last night as Tony Blair sought to get his ill-fated reshuffle back on track.

Alan Milburn returned to the Cabinet to take up a new post in charge of Labour policy last night as Tony Blair sought to get his ill-fated reshuffle back on track.

The countdown to a general election began as both Mr Blair and Michael Howard reshuffled their frontbench packs in an attempt to sharpen their parties' performance.

Mr Milburn was appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster after Mr Blair persuaded him to return to frontline politics less than 15 months after resigning his position as Health Secretary to spend more time with his family.

Blair aides said Mr Milburn would be Labour's "policy supremo" in the run-up to the election expected next May. The move threatens to create tensions with the Chancellor Gordon Brown, who is due to take overall charge of the party's election effort.

In negotiations with Mr Blair, Mr Milburn demanded a "proper job" which would give him control over the Labour manifesto. But this would infuriate the Chancellor, a long-standing foe of Mr Milburn.

A dispute is simmering between Blairites, who want a "bold" blueprint setting out a new round of reforms, and the more cautious Brown camp, which does not want a range of ill-thought-out policies that would blight a third term.

Mr Blair hopes that Mr Milburn's appointment will ensure a radical, Blairite manifesto. But Labour MPs fear it could be a recipe for damaging conflict between the Blair and Brown camps. One cabinet minister said: "Alan will be in charge of the manifesto and play a major role in election planning. Tony recognises Gordon's talent in election strategy, and this will ensure a radical manifesto with progressive policies based on Labour values." He added: "These things are like squalls but we will move on from this very quickly."

The Tory leader took Westminster by surprise by announcing changes to his front bench. The Tories contrasted Mr Howard's decisiveness with Mr Blair's dithering. But the shake-up ran into controversy as furious party moderates accused Mr Howard of "lurching to the right". He recalled the Thatcherite John Redwood, who becomes shadow secretary of state for deregulation (cutting red tape), and removed two moderates, Damian Green and John Bercow, from their posts at transport and international development respectively.

Alan Johnson won promotion to the Cabinet as Work and Pensions Secretary. A former postman who became leader of the Union of Communications Workers, he moves from Higher Education minister to take over from Andrew Smith, whose resignation on Monday caught Mr Blair off guard.

The Prime Minister was deeply impressed with Mr Johnson's performance in heading off a dangerous backbench Labour rebellion over university tuition fees.

Although the man who replaces the Brownite Mr Smith is a Blairite, he is seen as a conciliatory rather than tribal figure and the Brown camp appeared to be relaxed about his appointment.

The Chancellor is heavily involved in welfare policy and the Department of Work and Pensions has been seen as an arm of the Treasury. Mr Brown will now need to work closely with Mr Johnson at a time when welfare is rising fast up the political agenda.

Ian McCartney, the Labour Party chairman, saw off a move by Mr Blair to appoint Mr Milburn to his post, as The Independent disclosed on Tuesday. Mr McCartney won heavyweight support from Mr Brown and John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world