All entries for Thursday 27 April 2006

April 27, 2006

Tony's cabinet play musical chairs

Charles Clarke lets foreigners out of prison.
Patricia Hewitt lets go of reality.
John Prescott lets it all go…

It's not been a good week for the government (when is it ever), but I don't think Tony's going to be sweating too much.

Firstly, Charles Clarke has lost his job. He's gone. Kaput. Never to be seen again (except at the Department for Constitutional Affairs or somewhere similarly useful. The only reason Tony Blair refused to accept his resignation(s) was that he wants to sack the Santa look-a-like when he wants to, not when the Daily Mirror tells him it would be expedient.

Secondly, John Prescott's no great loss. He probably would have been moved aside in the forthcoming reshuffle anyway, considering he's unlikely to stand in the next General Election.

Thirdly, Patricia Hewitt can handle herself. She'll poke her stilettos at the prim and proper nurses, and be over her problems within a week or two. Granted, she's not about to solve the NHS's deficit, but then who is?

So the 'meltdown' predicted in today's newspapers is something of an over-statement. Blair was planning on a reshuffle anyway, and this might have brought it forward. But Charles Clarke was hardly setting the world alight at the Home Office. I expect John Hutton to be sat on that poisoned chalice within a couple of months.

David Miliband'll get the Education brief, replacing Ruth Kelly, who's number's been marked for months.

And as for Deputy PM, Blair might give it to Peter Hain in order to free up the Leader of the House role for Clarke. Hain is Blair's shit-stirrer-in-chief, and having him next door will make sure he's under control, if sufficiently off-message.

Ruth Kelly will probably leave the Cabinet for 'family reasons'. I wouldn't trust her to run a proverbial in a brewery, and nor does Blair.

And I think now's the time to bring Ed Balls in on the action – he'll probably get a junior ministerial role from which to launch himself as a serious candidate for the Cabinet when Gordon Brown takes over.

Blair's probably not worried about the ins and outs of his Cabinet – he doesn't need to keep people happy for much longer (remember my end-of-2006 prediction!).

The forthcoming reshuffle will be more of a chance for Blair to promote the next generation into a position of potential power rather than to bring about any change in policy.

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