There can be no more sophistry. Mr Blair must deliver on his self-proclaimed radicalism

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The Independent Online

The Government reshuffle has been portrayed as a victory for the radicals. Apparently the forces of conservatism within the Labour party, in the shape of Gordon Brown, have been vanquished and the daring thinkers around the Prime Minister will now dictate the party's next manifesto and push on to a glorious third term. At least that's the spin. The reality behind this reshuffle is rather more ambiguous.

The Government reshuffle has been portrayed as a victory for the radicals. Apparently the forces of conservatism within the Labour party, in the shape of Gordon Brown, have been vanquished and the daring thinkers around the Prime Minister will now dictate the party's next manifesto and push on to a glorious third term. At least that's the spin. The reality behind this reshuffle is rather more ambiguous.

Alan Milburn's return is certainly welcome. He is one of Labour's best media performers, and it would have been foolish not to make use of his talents in the run-up to the next general election. Mr Milburn is also one of the few genuine Blairites in the party, and someone who has shown a rare inclination to try to think out precisely what this means. It makes sense to give such a dynamic force a key role in drafting the next manifesto when there is a whiff of stagnation hanging over the party.

But Mr Milburn has not entered the Cabinet as party chairman, as would have been appropriate, and as the Prime Minister wanted. Instead he has been given the post of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, which makes it hard to draw the conclusion that this is another botched reshuffle. Ian McCartney limps on into the general election as chairman thanks mainly to the patronage of John Prescott, despite his woeful performances as the face of the party. The fact that the Prime Minister was unable to put a key ally in the post he wanted gives the lie to suggestions that this reshuffle represents an emphatic reassertion of Prime Ministerial authority.

So much that goes on in the upper echelons of the Labour party is distorted by the rivalry between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown; this reshuffle is no exception. This latest outbreak of the "TBGBs", as they are now known, is over who will control the next general election campaign. Mr Milburn says he is in charge, but the Chancellor has other ideas, as the promotion of Ruth Kelly, a Brown ally, to the Cabinet Office indicates. This can only give rise to fears that the civil war will flare up again with monotonous regularity.

The Chancellor, to his credit, opted for loyalty rather than treachery when the Prime Minister was in a weak position earlier this year. As a result, Mr Blair will lead the party until after the election - and Mr Brown must buckle down to use his formidable skills and intellect to the benefit of the entire Government.

But Mr Brown's allies are justified in showing wariness towards the Prime Minister's approach. Mr Blair has been preaching radical reform of the public services for seven years, but there has been little action. The Chancellor, although inherently conservative when it comes to public services, has delivered on his pledges over the economy, overseas aid and some welfare reform. Now Mr Milburn must ensure that Labour goes into the next general election with a coherent and genuinely radical programme of driving out the egregious inefficiencies that bedevil the public services. There can be no more sophistry.

For all the in-fighting, the Government is less divided on policy that it often appears. The Cabinet is broadly united on the need to increase use of the private sector in the provision of services and to break up the monolithic controls of the NHS by devolving power to individual hospitals. There is also consensus on giving schools more freedom.

Labour can also draw encouragement from the disarray in the Tory party, which seems to be drifting further to the right. Michael Howard also unveiled a reshuffle on Wednesday in an attempt to draw attention to the indecisiveness of the Government. The loss of two bright, media-friendly modernisers and the return of a right-winger like John Redwood, for all the vigour he has shown in opposition, sends the wrong signals to a sceptical electorate.

The significance of these reshuffles is that both parties are now clearly gearing up for the election. The task for Mr Blair, focused on his historic third term, remains the same: to deliver on his promises. There is, after all, more to government than just winning elections.

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