Sunday, June 24, 2007

Okay, it's egg-on-face time...

Now that the deputy leadership election is over, and we know a bit more about Gordon Brown's plans for government, the time has finally come to put my neck on the line and make my final prediction of what I think will be his Cabinet line-up.

This afternoon's events in Manchester contained a good few clues...

* There will be no Deputy Prime Minister. There might have been had someone run away with the deputy leadership, but now there is no need and it wasn't the role that Harriet Harman sought anyway. Ergo, the de facto DPM will be Jack Straw. He will get the job of chairing all Prescott's Cabinet Committees and acting as Gordon's general troubleshooter, as well as overseeing the constitutional reform agenda. Clearly he would be unable to comine those roles with any of the major offices of state, so I tip him instead to become Minister of Justice and First Secretary of State (a title both Prescott and Michael Heseltine enjoyed at various times).

* Hilary Benn will not be promoted to a major office of state. He performed extremely disappointingly in the deputy leadership contest and the Brownites were known to have been unimpressed with his apparent lack of vigour. A middle-ranking post now seems the best he can hope for. Similarly, Hazel Blears is hardly screaming out for promotion after coming last in the contest, although the lack of talented women in the government (see below) will almost certainly save her from the sack.

* Harriet Harman and Douglas Alexander will perform the two key party roles in government. I think it unlikely however that Harman will not also be given some kind of cross-cutting ministerial portfolio, such as Minister for the Family. Similarly I now expect Alexander to retain his current Cabinet role of Transport Secretary for the time being. I had tipped him to go to Defence, but that is not a job that is easily combined with a party role and to take on two new jobs at this stage would be asking a lot.

* As I noted in the previous post, Mr Brown's declaration that the NHS will be his "immediate" priority strongly suggests that Patricia Hewitt is now on her way out of government. If Mr Brown thought the NHS was being well-managed he would scarcely see the need to make it his top priority on entering No 10. I strongly expect Yvette Cooper to return to the Department of Health as Secretary of State.

My other key predictions are:

* John Denham will be in the Cabinet. Gordon is known to want to make some kind of statement about the Iraq War and this is one way of doing it. And apart from that, he was a good minister. I tip him to return the department where he was a junior minister, Work and Pensions.

* The shortage of suitably qualified women to replace Hewitt, Tessa Jowell and Hilary Armstrong will come to the rescue of Labour's great survivor, Margaret Beckett, who is in any case a close Brown ally. It will however not be enough to save Ruth Kelly who is regarded the Brownites as a political liability.

* Gordon will bite the bullet and make Alistair Darling Chancellor. Having another Scot in such a senior role will represent a considerable political risk, but he will offset this with big promotions not only for Straw but for two other leading English MPs, David Miliband and Alan Johnson.

So here goes....

Prime Minister: Gordon Brown
First Secretary of State and Minister of Justice: Jack Straw
Foreign Secretary: David Miliband
Chancellor of the Exchequer: Alistair Darling
Home Secretary: Alan Johnson
Leader of the House of Commons: Margaret Beckett
Education Secretary: Jacqui Smith
Health Secretary: Yvette Cooper
Environment Secretary: Hilary Benn
Trade and Industry Secretary: Stephen Timms
Transport Secretary (and Election co-ordinator): Douglas Alexander
Defence Secretary: John Hutton
Work and Pensions Secretary: John Denham
Local Government and Communities Secretary: Hazel Blears
Culture Secretary: James Purnell
Secretary of State for Devolved Nations and Regions: Peter Hain
Leader of the House of Lords: Baroness Scotland
Minister for the Family (and Party Chair): Harriet Harman
Minister for the Cabinet Office: Ed Miliband
International Development Secretary: Andy Burnham
Chief Secretary to the Treasury: Ed Balls
Chief Whip: Nick Brown
Housing Minister (attending Cabinet): Jon Cruddas

The following will be leaving the Government. Tony Blair, John Prescott, John Reid, Patricia Hewitt, Lord Falconer, Baroness Amos, Hilary Armstrong, Ruth Kelly, Tessa Jowell and Des Browne.

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Anonymous said...

I don't think that having Alastair Darling as Chancellor will be as big a political risk as some papers think. The three 'great offices of state' (plus Defence) are the roles most suited to a Scot. They are the only ones where the decisions made also affect Scotland - whereas having a Scot as Education, Health (etc.) secretary would create a 'West Lothian question' problem. Besides, with John Reid leaving (thank God, or whatever deity you believe in, the man is a fascist) the number of Scots in senior Cabinet positions will remain the same.

Anonymous said...

Surely Brown is not going to continue with the culture of promoting proven failures as has been the norm under Blair.
Yvette Cooper can't even get her act together as Housing minister as recently witnessed with the HIPS fiasco,promoted to Health you must be joking?


Anonymous said...


I'd be interested in your comments on Baroness Amos. She lost me when, as a former Human Rights lawyer and campaigner, she piloted the latest US Estradition Treaty through the Lords.


Anonymous said...

Valerie Amos: the poor soul who went round the world on Tony's behalf in early 2003 trying to get the "second resolution". Not a sensible move, I would have thought.

Richard Bailey said...

Under Blair I have merely been pissed off and angry, whilst secretly content that he was essentially a soft, wet, thoughtless Tory.

Now I am quite simply frightened.

Anonymous said...

This is the best and most coherent prediction I have seen so far - I've always thought Straw would get Justice rather than Home. Good calls on Johnson, Cooper and Smith.

The only quibbles I would have would be that I think Liam Byrne will get a top-table job and I don't think Andy Burnham will get Int Dev, though he will obviously be promoted in some way, shape or form.

Anonymous said...

I'd have thought Denham might be a possibility for Health Secretary, what with once having served as a junior minister at the department.

I used to like Alan Johnson, but I went off him when he failed to disown his dept's PC nonsense about badly behaved schoolchildren requiring a praise:blame ratio of 5:1.