Friday, June 13, 2003

Well, that's the reshuffle done.

A full list is here.

Nick Brown out, as part of the Gordon Brown humiliation programme.

Estelle Morris back in office in a nice job.

John Spellar off to Northern Ireland as punishment for losing the AEEU election.

Michael Meacher out for being an old leftie.

And the good and decent man Chris Mullin returns to office, which is a very interesting move. Chris Mullin hated being in government, so I'm intrigued that he's joined the FCO.

Some interesting moves (for example, Chris Leslie and David Lammy to get an education in governent under Falconer) but overall, I see no reason to change my earlier opinion. This reshuffle was an unmitigated disaster, and what's worse, an easily avoidable one. heads must roll at number ten.

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Estelle's bacccccck!

In the mild corner, weighing in at a waif like 80 pounds, the teachers friend, the brand new Minister of the Arts... Estelle Morris.

Somehow, I can't see her doing a Kim Howells though *sigh*.

Also, Meacher is out, Brian Wilson is out, Margaret Hodge gets Minister for Children, Chris Pond and Malcolm Wicks likely to be promoted.

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What a way to run a reshuffle..

I write this with a heavy heart. The people at number ten are good people. They work incredibly hard. They have, under Tony Blair, delivered the longest serving Labour government in history.

They deserve credit, approbation, applause and salutations for this achievement. Unfortunately, some of them also deserve the sack after this fiasco.

As Bill Clinton said of George Bush, I admire as a matter of professional art adroit reshuffles. Unfortunately, as Quentin Tarantino might have said, this reshuffle is pretty fuckin’ far from adroit.

The Policy and Political offices at Number Ten are the hidden (and sometimes not so hidden) agents of delivering and the Prime Minister’s will. They advise on the policy and political implications of various possible decisions, and then, once the decisions are taken they focus themselves to the task of making sure they are delivered competently and smartly.

I have no idea who was responsible for the design of yesterday’s reshuffle, but one has to expect that this kind of mess would result in some price being paid.

You don't want to be doing that...

It’s not as if this was an impossible reshuffle to carry out easily. Let me just explain how this thing could have been done, without any of this mess.

First, Appoint Lord Falconer as “Last Lord Chancellor” explain he will sit as Lord chancellor, but his main job will be to see the abolition of the post and the creation of A Department of Constitutional affairs. Take credit for signalling a massive reconstruction of our judicial system. The great spin is that he will take only half the salary of Lord Irvine.

Second, Appoint Peter Hain and Alistair Darling as the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales in addition to their current portfolios (Leader of House/Transport). Assuage the concern of the nationalists by creating a full weight Minister of State in each department to work full time on relevant issues (and do almost all the work). Prepare the ground for the merging of those ministries into the department of Constitutional affairs once the abolition of the Lord Chancellors office is complete.

Move junior ministers as needed.

Some important questions that certain staffers and civil servants at number ten need to be asking themselves today.

1, Why was the Lord Chancellors office “abolished” then unabolished, pending consultation. Surely people knew it would be controversial to just abolish a great office of state.?

2. Why didn’t anyone realise that Putting Lord Falconer in charge of Scotland and Wales and then sharing that authority with Hain and Darling would look like an almighty mess.

3. Why had no one made it clear who reported to who in these new offices? Or indeed who staff reported to, or what the precise role of the ministers concerned was.

The Prime Minister;s political and policy offices haven’t had a great time of it recenty- they’ve not managed the union relationship that well, they’ve been blindsided on Health policy, schools funding and on University fees, now the reshuffle is a mess. Is it perhaps time for a reshuffle at the lower levels of the tight knit team at number ten?

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Thursday, June 12, 2003

An interesting re-shuffle...

First of all, Why did the cabinet reshuffle take so long?

Constitutional Affairs must have been planned for a while, so that makes sense. Blair knew Milburn was going, so you have to assume that Wales and Scotland were scheduled to go. That meant a job had to be found for Hain, so the only possible conclusion, given that Reid went to Health and Hain to leader of the house is that, for this to take 5-6 hours, someone must have kicked off big time. (Because if they hadn't kicked off a reshuffle like that would have taken about ten minutes.)

So who was it. We wait and see...

Second, Lord Falconer?

It's an odd thing. Lord Falconer is a talented, intelligent, decent guy. As far as I know, he is Scottish. Yet, part of me feels a little queasy that an ennobled London based barrister should now be in charge of Scottish and Welsh affairs (and regional affairs- though this is not yet clear) in the British government.

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More on Alan Milburn..

Nick Barlow and Harry Hatchet have very interesting posts up about this. Essentially I agree with them both. Nick's last paragraph is particularly good.

"The important thing to remember is that Milburn, like a lot of the Cabinet, is still relatively young in political terms. It seems to me that he's made the calculation that he can live quite happily on an MP's wages (plus all the various other bits of work he can pick up now he's out of the cabinet - I suspect a number of papers are already making him offers to write for them) and spend some quality time with his family, then return to frontline politics in a few years, tanned, rested and ready. There's probably quite a lot of jealous looks being shot in his direction from other senior politicians right now."

One point. It seems that the best way to get people too see how decent a person you are as a politician is to say "sod this I'm chucking it in".

Surely this can't be a good thing.

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Alan Milburn resigns...

Well, I didn't expect that at all. Milburn resigning. Phew. Well, it means we're liely for a bigger reshuffle. If I'm really cynical, I'd think that Milburn was aware that being mini-me Blair meant he couldn't develop his own identity. If he want's a bigger job in the future, he needs to set out his vision, not just be Tony's heavy lifter on unpopular issues.

Of course, Alan might have been persuaded to stay if a better job had been available... but most likely Alan Milburn wants a break, has a desire to set out his own political agenda, and sees that if he leaves government he can position himslf more easily for any future contests, when his children will be older....

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Wednesday, June 11, 2003


Since the US pack of cards was issued, there’s no prizes for guessing the prohibitive favourite for the “cheesy graphic to be used for the reshuffle on all major news networks” award.

Well, I guess we’ll get to find out tomorrow anyway.

So what will happen.

It’s kind of an odd reshuffle to predict. There's been so many forced, reshuffles, it distorts the chrystal ball like crazy.

So, instread of firm predictions, just a few things to watch out for

The Cabinet

Well, this has been trailed pretty extensively. Irvine to go, to be replaced by Hoon at “Justice” – which presumably will be a new “great ministry of state. “(alternatively, Blunkett to go to Justice and Hoon to go to Home to crack down on asylum)

Reid goes to Defence, which leaves Leader of the House free.. for Liddell?

Well, perhaps, If Scotland, Wales and Devolution goes to Hain at a new super ministry of devolution. I’m not sure about this though, Surely Prescott wants to hold on to regions and local government until the first referendum? Maybe he will- for now.

These predictions have at least a veneer of reason behind them, because of one of the iron laws of information. If it’s a structural move, not just a personnel move, more people have to know about it.

Trouble is, to get any further, you have to start sacking big names. I can’t see Blunkett, Straw or Brown going. So where can Milburn or Hewitt go? Unless people like, Darling, Beckett or Smith are for the sack, I can only see logjam. Which means they must be. If they are, there's a few junior cabinet spots opened up for the good Minister of State people..

Look, to be honest, if you’re not Alistair Campbell, Sally Morgan or Tony Blair, you’re making it up at this level of detail. Still, that never stopped me before.

The continuing rise of the new guard.

It might be too soon to see big promotions for David Miliband, Ruth Kelly, Douglas Alexander and Yvette Cooper, each of whom has been in Government for a while in major roles, but watch out just in case. If any of these make it to the cabinet, it is A BIG DEAL.

However, Stephen Twigg, Lorna Fitzsimmons, Tom Watson, Chris Bryant, Chris Leslie, James Purnell, Phil Woolas, Jim Murphy, are all names to watch lower down.
A couple of interesting things about this cohort. They all know each other well- Tom Watson was chair of Labour Students while Stephen, Jim and Lorna were Presidents of the NUS, for example.

There’s a danger there for them. There are all inside politicians. They’ve all been political since university and few of them have done anything else since. (Chris Bryant is an exception, as, possibly is Ben Bradshaw) This is both why they’re so far ahead of their peers (looking for government slots in your mid-thirties is no mean achievement.)

However, there is a correlated tendency to become a little too comfortable in power. This isn’t a problem in opposition- you have to go to too many crappy meetings to forget it, but beware young Jedi’s, your smooth ascent is watched with resentment. Remember to walk with kings and not lose the common touch. Another way of putting this is not to spend so much time sat on the front bench that you don’t notice that the army behind you are carrying knives.

Who’s left out in the cold?

If you were Oona King, Claire Ward or any loyalist elected in 1997, you must be thinking this is about your last chance to sit on the red box for a while, and you must be asking what you’d done to piss off the whips or the No. 10 political office.

Expect to see a few disappointed MP’s decide there’s not much point staying on the reservation after this reshuffle (or just as bad, forming cabals around possible future leaders). Also watch out for obviously talented people who don’t make it. Jon Cruddas, for one is an interesting name to watch- anti-Euro, pro-union, ex-No 10 political office. what is his game plan? (Or perhaps he will get a red box, in which case, will be asked to go on the Pro-Euro bus tour?)

Personally, I hope that a few reliable, decent people make it into office this time. I can understand number 10’s preference for the young and the talented, but leaven the bread a little. There’s no harm in giving ministerial jobs to the John Grogan’s and Alan Campbell’s of this world. They’ll do a good, decent job and your reward will be in heaven. Look at it this way. No-one ever describes Hazel Blears as a future star, but she’s a good, competent minister. A few more like her would not be a bad call.

The Clear-out of the Middle rankers.

If I was a fairly long serving minister of state, without a staggering success to my name, I’d be quivering in my boots. I’ve no evidence for this, but I’d expect a fair number of the following to be looking at a P45.

Micheal Meacher (time to let him piss outside the tent?), Elliot Morley (Six years at Agriculture, end his torment), Sally Keeble, John Spellar (That AEEU fiasco has got to have a price eventually), Alan Johnson (who, who?), Margaret Hodge (Fees, 'nuff said) , Richard Caborn (Minister of sport curse), Brian Wilson (Even if he is a beach boy)

Obviously, the more of the New Guard who make it, the more of these that have to go. Reshuffles are the ultimate zero sum game, folks.

And of course, we might see the annual game of Gordon Brown allies Nick Brown, Michael Wills and Nigel Griffiths being humiliated, as happens at every reshuffle.

Enough of my yakkin, though, what do you guys think?

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YO, kids, do you like Primus?

OK, politics is booooooooring, right kids? Even Tom Watson's teen page don't make his jive happenin.

But help is at hand. Politicians can now make their youth speak relevant by utilising the Ask Snoop auto-shizzolating facility.

For Example, Ian McCartney’s latest speech to the GMB would transformed into

“On da left, we believe in investment in public services, funded through fair tax increases, an enabling Government committed fair access 'n equal opportunities fo' izzall.
And on da right, where they believe in a minimalist state, fo' da few not da many, wit no equal opportunities, funded by an unfair tax system, where da muthas we want help end up wit a cheap-'n-nasty safety nizzle n' shit”

Even better, Shizzolating, produces this succinct definition of the bloggers credo from Perry Haviland “We write what we want write n' shit.”

Link via ..Emiliy

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Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Oh my Euro…

Well, there it is. Almost 2000 pages of analysis of the economics and about ten times that in commentary on the Euro and we end up precisely where I said we’d end up. For the record, I don’t know jack about economics.

So the verdict is: "No, not yet but it really is a good thing and we ought to get ready and join the Euro soon, yes, maybe even before the next election (if our economy is totally structurally changed by then)."

So what to make of a day where both John Redwood and Peter Mandelson profess themselves to be delighted by the Chancellors decision? Who's deluded?

Here are a few handy hints and tips for you to amaze and entertain your friends as they avidly discuss the Euro as part of the forthcoming great national debate ™.

Conspiracy theories

The depth charges- Two of the major planks of reform to prepare the UK for joining the Euro will scupper our plans to join: Regional Pay Bargaining will enrage the unions and put them firmly in the No camp, while Mortgage reform will send home owners insensate with rage.

All of this is intended to drive home to pro-Euro ministers what the cost of Euro entry might be for them.

The secret delight- Pro Europeans are delighted that the referendum is being put off, because they know they would not win it. They had to be seen to push for it, but know that it will take a fundamental shift to make the referendum winnable. As soon as that happens, they’ll pounce.

The Iron Veto- Gordon now can stop any referendum. If he’s still Chancellor, he can just say no. If he’s an ex-chancellor he can destroy the credibility of any pro-campaign by speaking against entry.

A return to Keynes Anatole Kaletsky spots this in the Times.. If you don’t have interest rate control, then the easiest way to heat up or cool down the economy is through fiscal policy. Now this is explicitly against the Stability and Growth pact, but also politically, the cuts phrase can be very painful

Next steps-

The endless review. Enjoyed the last few weeks? Yippee, because we’ll be doing it again in the pre Budget report, when we’ll decide whether we need another full review. Even if we don’t there is going to a review overy year.

The great national debate. Ever felt we’ve had this before? Ministers being told to tour the shopping centres of our land touting some voter-friendly document or other.

Timetables. We next get to look again at whether to review all this in March. Then there’s the European, London and local elections in June 2004. Then perhaps referendums on Regional government in September/October 2004, then 2005, perhaps a General election. Of course, you could hold the General Election back, or combine the Referenda together, but it’s going to be a very clogged timetable.

So what now? I suspect that the next assessment (in March 2004) will say “steady progress but not quite there”. The interesting question is the Spring 2005 budget. It would seem to make sense to recommend another full assessment then, fight the election on the strong likelihood the tests will come up yes and there will be a referendum after a possible 2005 election.

Of course, after the Election we enter a world where all is dependent on the decision of the British people, but assuming they do no choose to put IDS in Number 10, I would expect a referendum in short order. So why is everyone so happy? Paradoxically, I suspect it's because they've both got what they don't want. The NO campaign don't want a referendum, but secretly they long for it, because they think they'd win. The YES campaign don't want a delay, but secretly the need one so they can get their campaign ready.

However, there is a very big but in all this. I’m concentrating on the political handicapping not the economic pro’s and cons, but if there really is an economic crisis, whether deflation in Germany or an extended recession, then all of the above goes out of the window.

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Monday, June 09, 2003

Stressed by Euro-nerves? Calm yourself by making a stand against Toilet love with your local Tories!

From today's Gallery News, the vital issue of whether having sex in lavatories is legal or not.

".....Conservatives argue that (currently) amorous pairs can only be prosecuted if they are seen by two or more people - and this does not allow police to
arrest people on the basis of hearing a sex act in a cubicle."

" Our amendment makes it clear, once and for all, that sex in a public lavatory is not legal. We think that this is what decent people in our
country want, " Baroness Noakes said.

Which grammatically, left me a little unsure about whether decent people want to have sex in toilets or want to have it banned (or perhaps even both? Eros is a murky figure, y'know).

This may seem stirring stuff, but the Noble Baroness has more to frighten us with..

"We run the risk of making public lavatories no-go areas"..

Well, If you can't go in a public loo, that's really bad news.

Never fear, the Noble Lord Falconer is aware of the gravity of the problem.

"No one should have to witness or experience such activity as they go about their daily business."

Thank goodness for fibre.

"he added a closed cubicle door could be problematic when trying to establish 'which act is taking place'."
One's, Two's or rman on man love? Should I be holding my nose or being shocked to my core?

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Do the Summer Shuffle

Bored of the Euro, when I told you three or four weeks back what would happen? Tell me who you think will be reshuffled...

and I can't let a discussion of re-shuffling pass without point ing out that several of the weekend re-shuffle stories mentioned a certain Mr T. Watson as a potential minister, anbd as he's far too modest to mention it himself, I thought I would... best of luck, Tom.

(for my money- It'll be the whips office. A good chance to spend more time with your old mucker Fraser)

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