Monday, July 02, 2007

The Junior Reshuffle

Understandably, perhaps, in view of the events of the weekend, there has been very little MSM comment on the junior ministerial reshuffle besides this piece in Saturday's Indy. Which is a shame because for the political anoraks among us, the Full List of HM Government always provides plenty to chew on.

One appointment that has predictably already led to some lively debate on the blogosphere is that of Tom Watson to the whips' office. Watson left a comment on Guido Fawkes' blog last year stating that he would never return to government. In retrospect it is now clear he was taking the piss, but Guido, who took his original comments at face value, has now described Watson as "the most mendacious shit in the House of Commons."

All good fun...but the serious political point here though is that Watson has been brought back to his former role, as opposed to being promoted as undoubtedly would have happened had he not involved himself in the September 2006 "coup." This suggests to me that Gordon Brown is determined neither to punish nor reward those who forced Tony Blair to name the date for his departure, and is instead taking the very wise course of letting bygones be bygones.

Incidentally I did expect to see another of Watson's co-conspirators, Kevan Jones, joining the whips' office too - but with fellow North-East MPs Nick Brown and Alan Campbell already there, perhaps Gordon was worried about prompting accusations of a Geordie Mafia.

Inevitably, there are a few retreads - Jane Kennedy who previously resigned as a health minister on a point of principle, Joan Ruddock and Michael Wills to name three - but nowhere near as many as might once have been predicted. There are no comebacks as yet for such Brownite loyalists as Nigel Griffiths and Doug Henderson, for instance.

The most surprising retention to my mind is that of Margaret Hodge, who was thought to be living on borrowed political time after a series of highly damaging accusations about her time as leader of Islington Council. David Lammy, once ludicrously talked-up by The Sun as "The Black Blair," also lives to fight another day.

In terms of those now poised one rung below Cabinet rank, Blairite quartet Liam Byrne, Jim Murphy, Jim Knight and Pat McFadden all look well-placed. But Caroline Flint, tipped by many for Cabinet this time round, moves sideways and with Yvette Cooper and Beverley Hughes above her in the Cabinet wannabes pecking order, her career may now have peaked.

The list is also notable for one figure who is not on it - Jon Cruddas who apparently rejected a job offer. That is a subject deserving of a separate post which hopefully I will get around to later today or tomorrow.

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Guido Fawkes Esq. said...

You are very alone in your view that Watson was joking. He thrice denied wanting or expecting to get back in government.

The original allegation was that he was claiming to people he'd be back. In the heated circumstances that was a telling revelation.

Paul Linford said...


Don't get me wrong, I'm not excusing Watson. He shouldn't have said what he said on your blog if he didn't intend it to be taken at face value. But I don't think he did intend it to be taken at face value. He was treating your allegations - and your blog - with less than the seriousness which they merited. In other words, he was taking the piss.

You are exactly right in what you said in your post yesterday - "but we never really believed him did we?" I certainly didn't.