Prescott to co-ordinate Cabinet as election nears

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Indy Politics

John Prescott has been given a key role by Tony Blair as the Cabinet's "progress chaser" to ensure that ministers act in a co-ordinated way in the run-up to the next general election. He will not be formally called the Cabinet's "enforcer", as were Mo Mowlam and Jack Cunningham. But he will perform a similar role, ensuring that ministers clear policy with Downing Street.

John Prescott has been given a key role by Tony Blair as the Cabinet's "progress chaser" to ensure that ministers act in a co-ordinated way in the run-up to the next general election. He will not be formally called the Cabinet's "enforcer", as were Mo Mowlam and Jack Cunningham. But he will perform a similar role, ensuring that ministers clear policy with Downing Street.

The move comes amid criticism of the way Mr Blair took his decision to offer a referendum on the EU constitution without consulting most of his Cabinet. Blair allies say his U-turn was leaked by cabinet supporters of a referendum, led by Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary.

Mr Blair has been alarmed by ministers making policy "on the hoof" without consulting the Cabinet. Mr Prescott recently rebuked David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, for announcing new anti-terrorist measures while he was on a visit to India.

"John will have a bigger role in knocking heads together," one Blair ally said yesterday. "He has done it on an ad-hoc basis but now it will be done in a more systematic way."

At a meeting of the Cabinet yesterday, several ministers backed Mr Blair's referendum decision as they sought to end the controversy. But John Reid, the Health Secretary, admitted that the announcement was not handled well.

He said: "It would have been helpful if the decision had not been leaked and the process had been rather more coherent... Nevertheless, that was not the Prime Minister's fault."

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