Denis Macshane gone in the cabinet reshuffle
Tony Blair has sacked Denis Macshane in the cabinet
reshuffle. He is out of government altogether.
Douglas Alexander is his replacement as Minister for
Europe. MacShane was one of only two casualties of the
reshuffle, clearly demonstrating the low regard he was
held in. This was no secret, yet Zagreb thought he was
Whether this changes policy remains to be seen.
More about the Labour campaign | Special report:
Blunkett back to take on pensions reform
Hewitt goes to health, Reid switches to defense and
Hoon dropped to leader of the house
Michael White, political editor
Saturday May 7, 2005
David Blunkett last night returned to the cabinet
table with one of the hardest jobs Tony Blair could
offer him, as a reforming works and pensions secretary
who must tackle the thorny problems of invalidity and
provision for old age.
Four months after resigning as home secretary after
his affair with the publisher Kimberly Quinn, Mr
Blunkett's appointment came in a reshuffle which saw
the newly re-elected prime minister struggling to make
his plans fit the colleagues he has at his disposal.
In a signal which may put him at odds with the
Treasury, Mr Blunkett said he would consult and listen
before taking decisions, but that "nothing is off
That amounts to a potential rebuff for Gordon Brown's
formidable lieutenant, the newly elected backbench MP
Ed Balls, who said during the election campaign that
there would be no compulsory extra pensions savings.
In other moves - more sweeping than expected - the
combative John Reid moves from health to defense and
is replaced by Patricia Hewitt. Her post at trade and
industry will be filled by Alan Johnson, a former
trade union leader, after less than a year tackling
what is now to be Mr Blunkett's postbag.
But Mr Johnson's department will be revamped, yet
again, as the Department of Productivity, Energy and
Industry, with the stress firmly on raising
productivity, where Britain's position has slipped
Geoff Hoon, whose term at defence was dominated by the
political fallout from the Iraq war - notably the
death of the weapons scientist David Kelly - survives
in the low-profile role as leader of the Commons.
He replaces Peter Hain, who now combines the Welsh and
Northern Ireland secretaryships.
Officials refused to say whether Paul Murphy, a
veteran minister in Belfast, had resigned or been
pushed. The only other casualty was Denis MacShane,
the multilingual Europe minister, who is being
replaced ahead of the promised EU referendum by
Douglas Alexander, a Brown ally.
The Whitehall rumour machine had suggested that Mr
Blair initially hoped to give his old ally, Mr
Blunkett, part of John Prescott's sprawling empire -
the politically sensitive issues of housing and local
But he was fought off by the deputy prime minister, at
almost 67 still an indispensable figure in the New
Labour coalition, a crucial link between No 10 and No
Mr Prescott told the Guardian this week that he had
decided he needed a departmental base to remain a big
player and No 10's statement last night stressed his
continuing role chairing cabinet committees, promoting
cross departmental issues, the North and overseas
interests. Many MPs fear it is too much.
In a limited shake-up which saw Mr Brown, Jack Straw
and Charles Clarke retain the three great departments
of state - the Treasury, and Foreign and Home offices
- Mr Blair also promoted Des Browne, the immigration
In an unexpected move he becomes Mr Brown's deputy,
chief secretary to the Treasury. John Hutton, No 2 at
health and long-tipped for cabinet rank, becomes
chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster - his friend,
Alan Milburn's job until yesterday - in charge of
better regulation and driving forward public service
The other cabinet newcomer is David Miliband, the
high-flying Blairite who will now work with Mr
Prescott, in effect as his equivalent of chief
secretary, a deputy who has cabinet rank.
Mr Blair concluded that it would have been
inappropriate for such a senior figure as Mr Blunkett.
Though Mr Blair is committed to more collegiate
conduct - and discussed his appointments with Mr Brown
and Mr Prescott - the changes will be seen by Labour
ministers and MPs as a sign of his long-term
intentions, both personal and ideological.
Who gets junior ministerial posts this weekend may
reinforce the impression which Blairites are keen to
foster that the prime minister will soon bounce back
from the drubbing he got on Thursday night and drive
forward his reformist agenda.
He is in no mood to fall out with Mr Brown, a
sentiment likely to be reciprocated after the two men
patched up their well-advertised differences during
Mr Brown duly spoke out in support of greater
competition in the provision of public services like
health and education.