Power struggle in the Cabinet

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Indy Politics

David Blunkett is Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, age 57, back in the Cabinet after a six-month furlough


Who: Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, age 57, back in the Cabinet after a six-month furlough

Power base: Owes his second chance solely to Tony Blair, but still popular with elements of the authoritarian press

Friends say: Effective minister able to communicate tough messages, neutralising Tories on their own turf

Enemies say: Fatally damaged by his affair with Kimberly Quinn; garrulous glory-seeker

Prospects: Endless conflict ahead with Gordon Brown as he follows Blair's instincts on pensions and incapacity benefit


Who: Secretary of State for Defence, age 58 today, moved from Health

Power base: Member of the Kinnocracy, a group of like-minded ministers who worked in the former leader's office

Friends say: Tough operator with a deft political touch, able to sell Blairite ideas with a vivid turn of phrase

Enemies say: Blusterer and bully who annoyed the PM by talking over him at election news conference

Prospects: Defence is a downward move; although he is well qualified for it, it is not the Foreign Office


Who: Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, age 50, promoted from minister of state at the Department of Health

Power base: Friend of Alan Milburn, whose Cabinet place he takes, and therefore close to Blair

Friends say: Good on detail with an excellent track record at Health, personable and decent

Enemies say: Bland technocrat who stays rigorously on message; lacks fluency and charm

Prospects: Has been waiting outside the Cabinet for a long time; clever enough to adjust to Brownite reality


Who: Minister of communities and local government, age 39; into the Cabinet as No 2 in John Prescott's Office of the Deputy PM

Power base: Head of policy for Blair in opposition and in the first term, but on good terms with Brown

Friends say: Unusual combination of high intelligence, personal charm and good communication skills

Enemies say: Soulless policy wonk with a narrow base of ministerial experience in education

Prospects: Maturing all the time with the priceless asset for a next-generation contender of not making any mistakes


Who: Secretary of State for Health, age 56; finally wins promotion from being the longest-serving Trade and Industry Secretary

Power base: Another Kinnockite; ultra competent minister who impressed with safe handling of Rover's crash

Friends say: Assured and seasoned performer who has recently softened her style

Enemies say: Grating schoolmarm, devoid of passion, no strategic sense

Prospects: Blair expects her to extract maximum political benefit from NHS reforms as they finally deliver a "step change"


Who: Secretary of State for Productivity, Energy and Industry (re-badged DTI), age 54

Power base: Post-Blairite reformer with strong union links (he was leader of the postal workers before becoming an MP)

Friends say: Smooth, intelligent and telegenic operator from a normal background, with a sense of humour

Enemies say: Ideology-free zone; "political" minister with minimal grasp of detail

Prospects: Sideways move to the department for nuclear power will test his potential as a future leader


Who: Deputy Prime Minister, age 66, resisted attempts to hive off local government from his curious mini-department

Power base: As the only member of the Cabinet apart from Blair who owes his position to election by the party, he is the trustee of the party's interest

Friends say: Wily operator despite garbled presentation who has kept the Government together

Enemies say: Disastrous dinosaur well past his sell-by date who has formed Old Labour alliance with the Chancellor

Prospects: Likely to go when Blair goes, but with an eye to his place in history he wants to ensure a smooth transition


Who: Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, age 58

Power base: Over the past four years has become a fully paid-up member of the Brown camp

Friends say: Astute, collegiate survivor, often under-estimated, always on top of his brief

Enemies say: Sinuous logic-chopper, discreetly signalling less than total support for Blair on Iraq, Iran

Prospects: Owes his survival this time to his alliance with Brown, but likely to have reached his career's peak


Who: Chief Secretary to the Treasury, age 53, promoted from the demanding immigration brief at the Home Office

Power base: Long-standing friend and ally of Gordon Brown, popular with MPs

Friends say: Easy-going, intelligent and amusing, but proved his mettle as immigration minister against dangerous Tory attack

Enemies say: Unintelligible tribalist; another Scot at the Treasury

Prospects: Should shine as No 2 to the coming man, but yet to be tested in a department of his own


Who: Minister for Europe, not a member of the Cabinet but entitled to attend, age 37

Power base: Uber-Brownite, speech writer and aide to the Chancellor before becoming an MP in 1995 by-election

Friends say: Very bright and discreet; serious about thinking through the next phase of New Labour

Enemies say: Charmless, arrogant and looks too young on television

Prospects: His appointment ties the Brown camp to a referendum campaign if there is one; clearly in the Cabinet waiting room