PM's botched reshuffle claims victim number eight

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Indy Politics

The controversy over Margaret Hodge's appointment as minister for Children is the eighth problem to engulf Tony Blair over his reshuffle.

Problem number one was bad luck: Alan Milburn, the Health Secretary, told Mr Blair he had decided to leave the Cabinet to spend more time with his family.

Problem number two came when Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, opposed Mr Blair's plan to appoint a cabinet-level Minister for Europe based in the Cabinet Office. The idea was dropped.

Problem number three arose when David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, resisted plans for part of his empire to be transferred to a new Ministry of Justice. Mr Blair had Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, in mind. He could then move John Reid to Defence and switch Patricia Hewitt, the Trade Secretary. to Health. The plans were aborted.

Mr Blair and Mr Blunkett cooked up a compromise - to scrap the Lord Chancellor's Department and set up a Department of Constitutional Affairs.

Problem number four was the confusion over when the 1,400-year-old post of Lord Chancellor would disappear. Downing Street did not realise the move would require legislation.

Problem number five was the disarray over Scotland and Wales. It was unclear whether the Scottish and Welsh Offices would be abolished.

The sixth problem came when Mr Reid was installed at Health. He will not be responsible for the health service in his Scottish constituency, because health there is run by the Scottish Parliament.

Problem number seven was that Mr Hoon and Ms Hewitt, two Blair loyalists, were unhappy that they had to keep their current posts.

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