Baroness Shriti Vadera, one of Gordon Brown's closest aides, has resigned as a minister to promote his plan to forge permanent co-operation on economic policy among the world's 20 leading nations.
The former Business minister will become a full-time adviser to the G20 group of nations next month to ensure a smooth transition between Britain, which currently holds its rotating chairmanship, and South Korea, which takes over in January.
Her appointment is an attempt by Mr Brown to ensure that the co-operation with which the world responded to the recession becomes permanent. He has been calling for such co-ordination and a shake-up of bodies like the International Monetary Fund since 1998 but the crisis has propelled the need for reform to the top of the agenda.
But her departure will also cause him domestic difficulties as he has come to rely heavily on her advice. It will be welcomed, however, by those civil servants who have nicknamed her "Shriti the Shriek" because of her reputation for shouting down officials.
Mr Brown will present a report on his blueprint to the G20 summit in Pittsburgh today. In effect, the G20 would supplant the G8 group as the world's economy forum. It will not have a secretariat but will be run over the next year or so by Britain, South Korea and France, which is expected to take the chair in 2011. Lady Vadera will have an office in the Cabinet Office but will work for South Korea when it takes over the chairmanship. It means that she will still have a G20 role even if Mr Brown loses the general election. She is expected to carry on working for South Korea after a May election.
She will not draw a salary but the experience will allow her to command a high salary in the private sector when the job – expected to last a year – ends.
Lord Davies of Abersoch, the Trade minister, will take over her work as a Business minister, which includes small businesses and competition.
Mr Brown told journalists in New York that he had asked Lady Vadera to take up the new post. "She is an excellent minister. Her expertise in this area is such that there is no one better to do this job," he said.
International co-operation had stopped the recession turning into a depression. "This cannot be a one-off event. We have to be able to continue to take this action in future."
Mr Brown dismissed suggestions that the "special relationship" between Britain and the US was under threat after it emerged that Barack Obama had rebuffed five attempts to secure a formal meeting between the two leaders during Mr Brown's four-day visit to the US this week.
"President Obama and I have the strongest working relationship and the strongest friendship. I am not only very confident about the strength of the relationship between our countries, I am very confident about the relationship between the two of us. "The special relationship is strong and strengthening. And it's strengthening because there is a common purpose. We are dealing with exactly the same challenges, and we see things in very similar ways."
A White House spokesman dismissed the idea that Mr Brown had been snubbed: "Any stories that suggest trouble in the bilateral relationship between the United States and UK are totally absurd. We would add that President Obama and Prime Minister Brown enjoy a terrific relationship, they speak regularly on a range of the most difficult challenges facing our two nations, and meet frequently."
Trusted confidante: Shriti Vadera
When Gordon Brown flew to the US for his first meeting with President Barack Obama, he took just one of his ministers – Shriti Vadera. She may be little-known outside Whitehall but Baroness Vadera, 46, wields huge influence in Downing Street as one of Mr Brown's most trusted confidantes.
Mr Brown recruited the economist to advise him when he was chancellor 10 years ago. He instantly elevated her to the Lords and appointed her as a minister when he moved to Downing Street in 2007. The pair bonded more closely last year when she played a key role in drawing up the banks' rescue package after the financial meltdown.
Baroness Vadera was born in Uganda but her family fled Idi Amin's regime and came to Britain when she was 15. She attended Oxford University and then joined UBS Warburg, where she worked for 15 years before being headhunted to the Treasury.Reuse content