Brown makes his mark with first Cabinet

Brown unveils the new face of govt
Brown unveils the new face of govt

Gordon Brown dramatically altered the face of government today with a major reshuffle of the Cabinet.

Jack Straw will lead the embryonic Ministry of Justice, despite expectations he would return to the Home Office. He now becomes the first lord chancellor to sit in the House of Commons.

Home secretary instead went to Jacqui Smith, in a surprise promotion for Tony Blair's chief whip.

She becomes the first female home secretary, in a Cabinet that has otherwise seen the departure of many Blairite women.

Ms Smith is credited with managing many of the tensions between Mr Brown and Mr Blair, which threatened to come to a head last September, and is respected by many in the Labour party.

As was widely expected, Alistair Darling has been appointed chancellor. Mr Darling is one of the few faces around the Cabinet table who can claim to have been there since Labour arrived in Downing Street in 1997.

Mr Darling was the overwhelming favourite to lead the Treasury, having served as Brown's deputy from 1997 to 1998.

David Miliband has been awarded with the high profile post of foreign secretary. The 41-year-old MP is considered a likely successor to Mr Brown and his relationship with the prime minister will be closely watched by commentators.

Hilary Benn had been seen as a future foreign secretary but under whelmed during the deputy leadership contest. He now replaces Mr Miliband at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Mr Brown said education would be his passion when he launched his bid for leadership.

Today he made his mark by splitting the Education Department, creating two Cabinet posts of secretary of state for schools and children and secretary of state for innovation, universities and skills.

Ed Balls has been handed responsibility for schools in a much anticipated promotion to Cabinet for the long-term ally of Mr Brown.

John Denham returns to government with responsibility for universities. The former Home Office minister was a high profile resignation from the government over the Iraq war, but had been tipped to return under Mr Brown.

Alan Johnson has been parachuted in to revive the embattled Department of Health. Mr Brown was spared the need to sack Patricia Hewitt, however, after she resigned from the government yesterday for "personal reasons".

Ruth Kelly will remain in the Cabinet, defying many expectations. However, she has been removed from the communities department, where she oversaw the chaotic near-introduction of home information packs, and handed responsibility for the Department for Transport.

Hazel Blears has been named the new communities secretary. She loses control for housing after Mr Brown created a Cabinet-level minister for housing. This position was handed to rising star Yvette Cooper, who had served as housing minister under Ruth Kelly.

Blairite John Hutton also remains in the Cabinet, becoming secretary of state for business, enterprise and regulatory reform.

Although Mr Brown spared many Blairite ministers he has firmly made his mark on the new Cabinet and only Des Browne remains in the same position as defence secretary.

The prime minister had promised to lead a government of "all the talents". He had attempted to coax former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown into the Northern Ireland office. Instead he had to contend with giving former Tory MP Shaun Woodward the position.

Mr Brown also hinted he would look beyond Westminister when forming a government. Today he revealed Marc Malloch Brown, a former UN deputy secretary-general, would become the newly created minister for Africa, Asia and the UN. The Queen duly awarded him with a life peerage this morning.

The new-look Cabinet met for its first meeting this afternoon but details of any policies are not yet forthcoming.


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