Tuesday, May 08, 2007

My two penn'orth on Gordon's first Cabinet

As Ben Brogan so rightly says, the potential for egg-on-face with this is huge, but since everyone else is at it - well, Iain Dale anyway - here's my current take on where things stand in the Gordon's Government stakes following John Reid's surprise exit.

Prime Minister: Gordon Brown
Deputy Prime Minister: Alan Johnson
Foreign Secretary: David Miliband
Chancellor of the Exchequer: Jack Straw
Home Secretary (Minister for Homeland Security): Alistair Darling
Lord Chancellor (Minister of Justice): Hilary Benn
Leader of the House of Commons: Geoff Hoon
Nations and Regions Secretary: Peter Hain
Environment and Energy Secretary: Yvette Cooper
Defence Secretary: Douglas Alexander
Education Secretary: Hazel Blears
Health Secretary: Caroline Flint
Trade and Industry Secretary: Ed Balls
Transport Secretary: Stephen Timms
Work and Pensions Secretary: Ruth Kelly
Culture Secretary: James Purnell
International Development Secretary: John Denham
Local Government and Communities Secretary: Jacqui Smith
Minister for the Cabinet Office (Social Exclusion): Andy Burnham
Leader of the House of Lords: Lord Falconer
Party Chairman: Jon Cruddas
Chief Secretary to the Treasury: Ed Miliband
Chief Whip: Nick Brown

The following will be leaving the Government:

Tony Blair
John Prescott
John Reid
Margaret Beckett
Patricia Hewitt
Des Browne
John Hutton
Tessa Jowell
Hilary Armstrong
Baroness Amos

The big thing I'm unsure about is Deputy PM. I'm not sure Brown wants one, but if Alan Johnson wins the deputy leadership as expected, I think he'll be obliged to have one. This is why I've said all along that Jon Cruddas, who doesn't want the title, is really Gordon's candidate.

I've earmarked a new job for Peter Hain which effectively amounts to overlord of devolved administrations. This is essentially a beefed-up version of his current role as Welsh and Northern Ireland Secretary, taking in also what is now the very thorny issue of relations with the Scottish Parliament.

I thought long and hard about Margaret Beckett, the great survivior of Labour politics. I think Brown will reluctantly ask her to step aside for now, but I wouldn't be surprised to see her back as Leader of the Lords after a General Election.

Finally, I think this is a work in progress as much in Gordon's mind as in everyone else's, and the nature of politics being what it is, the situation will almost certainly change between now and the end of July - so expect to see the odd update from time to time.

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skipper said...

Like your picks for Hain and Johnson and agree Beckett is probably for the chop. I suspect 'Dessie' Browne, popular with the Scottish MPs might cling on though his performance has scarcely been inspiring to date. I'm a bit worried your list is not 'young' enough though.

skipper said...

Agree re Miliband also but think Darling will be Chancellor

Anonymous said...

This is what I came up with yesterday:

Deputy PM, Minister for Constitutional Reform - Hilary Benn
Chancellor - Jack Straw
Foreign Secretary - Margaret Beckett
Home Secretary - David Miliband
Leader of the Commons, Scots Secretary - Alistair Darling
Leader of the Lords - Lord Sewel
Culture, Media and Sport - James Purnell
Defence - Des Browne
Education - Caroline Flint
Environment and Agriculture - Ian Pearson
Health - Alan Johnson
International Development - Douglas Alexander
Justice, Lord Chancellor - John Hutton
Local Government - Yvette Cooper
NI and Wales - David Hanson
Trade and Industry - Ed Balls
Transport - Tony McNulty
Work and Pensions - Jacqui Smith
Chancellor of Lancs., Cabinet Office Minister - John Healey
Chief Secretary to the Treasury - Stephen Timms
Chief Whip - Nick Brown

Ruth Kelly (to Europe Minister)
Hazel Blears (to Solicitor General)

At the top end: I think Brown will have a Deputy PM, and will charge him with over-seeing what will allegedly be the Big Idea of Brown's government, creating a constitution. Straw will be rewarded with the Treasury (allowing him to complete the Triple) and Beckett will stay at the Foreign Office, but both will be expected to stand down at the next election. I can see Miliband being allowed to show some steel at the Home Office before moving to the Treasury if Labour wins again. Darling (dependable but dull) will become Leader of the House. I've really no idea about the Lords, but Lord Sewel is apparently quite close to Gordon and his work on achieving a settlement between Westminster and Edinburgh over the distribution of powers between the two Parliaments would be a good background for leading on Lords reform.

At the bottom end: Timms has been uninspiring, so I think he'll stay where he is at least until the next election. Healey seems like a prime candidate for running the Cabinet Office, but this might also be a good spot for a return by former Brown researcher Nigel Griffiths, who resigned over Trident. Nick Brown looks like the obvious choice for Chief Whip, but I'm not sure.

In between:

Brown will promotoe those who are, at least to some extent, consensus builders, and remove or sideline the divisive figures. So, Alan Johnson will be a prominent figure - I think he'll be tasked with rescuing the NHS and achieving a consensus on a new way forward. Deranged-looking Blairite John Hutton will need to be sidelined - I assume his welfare reform plans will go on hold during the leadership election, but if they were then brought back after the summer recess, they'd spark a rebellion Brown will be desperate to avoid just months into his premiership - but he's not the type to go quietly and Brown doesn't need any more enemies on the backbenches; Justice would let him posture for the Tory press whilst keeping him away from the key policy areas (employment and public services). Meanwhile, I can see Jacqui Smith (a one-woman "good cop, bad cop" routine) selling a toned-down version of Hutton's welfare reforms.

I assume (because she seems like an odious lunatic to me) that Hazel Blears will be dropped because of the widespread (and thoroughly deserved) antipathy towards her - but she has some sort of following, so can't be got rid of altogether. Ruth Kelly has performed poorly at the DCLG and proved to be particularly divisive as Equalities Minister, so I think she'll be demoted to one of the attendee-only posts to serve penance - she's already been sidelined judging by the coverage of the new funding for council housing, which focussed on Brown and Kelly's junior, Yvette Cooper (who I expect to replace her).

Patricia Hewitt surely can't have any more lives left, and both Tessa Jowell and Hilary Armstrong are overly associated with Blair and have no positive contribution to their credit. I think Hain will be looking at retirement on age grounds, but really because of his ego - he's played too many angles in the service of his own career.

Key Brown lieutenants will feature strongly. Ed Balls is on a trajectory to the Foreign Office, and Trade is the best stepping stone for that. Des Browne will cling on at Defence. I get the sense that Douglas Alexander's ministerial career has somehow gone off the rails as less goofy Brownites have emerged, but I think he might have a future with some sort of international appointment, for which Development would be good training.

Apart from that, I reckon we'll see mostly inoffensive but not uninspiring new blood - non-aligned New Labour loyalists Hanson and McNulty, egregious self-promoter Ian Pearson (a former PPS to Geoffrey Robinson), and open-minded Blairite Caroline Flint. I'm guessing there will have to be one greased-up Blairite punk, and that'll be James Purnell (possibly Andy Burnham, but I think he needs to serve time more time in junior office), probably given Culture where he can't damage anything Brown really cares about.

Anonymous said...

Hardly feels like a fresh, exciting new start. Thoroughly depressing.

VFTN said...

This is a fun game and Brown can shift the faces around all he likes but ultimately people will be looking to the man himself for the real signs of change.

VFTN said...

PS. I once had the misfortune of witnessing Kelly at work while she was at Education. She was terrible and had now apparent grip of her own policy. The idea of her being put in charge of something as important as pensions is truly terrifying.

Anonymous said...

Nothing for Harriet Harman?
Ok, it can depend on how she'll perform in the Deputy race. if she's not humiliated, there can be a room for her, maybe instead of Kelly or Smith (who both have a marginal seat to defend and can be sent back to backbencher to try and save their political career)

Tom said...

I'd get falconer back up into justice if I were you. Can't see blears getting such a senior position either. Perhaps Benn at education?