[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 May 2007, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
Blair's Cabinet of '97 - where are they now?
Looking keen and proud, the 24 members of Tony Blair's first Cabinet line up in May 1997. Find out what lay in store for them, by clicking on the name labels below.

Nick BrownDavid ClarkMo MowlamFrank DobsonHarriet HarmanRon DaviesLord Ivor RichardGavin StrangSir Robin ButlerAlistair DarlingClare ShortChris SmithAnn TaylorDonald DewarJack StrawJohn PrescottGordon BrownDavid BlunkettGeorge RobertsonMargaret BeckettRobin CookTony BlairEnter alt textLord IrvineJack Cunningham

TONY BLAIR, PRIME MINISTER IN 1997, STILL IN POST

Tony Blair - 2007
The invasion of Iraq split public opinion and divided the party

In May 1997, Tony Blair became the youngest prime minister since Lord Liverpool in 1812. He was swept into Downing Street on a tide of optimism following a landslide victory, promising to breathe new life into Britain's tired institutions and restore trust in politics.

His decade in power has seen one of the longest periods of economic growth in Britain's history and big increases in spending on schools and hospitals. Other landmark policies include a minimum wage, tuition fees for higher education, constitutional reform such as devolution in Scotland and Wales and progress in the Northern Ireland peace process.

Mr Blair is the only the Labour prime minister to have won three successive general elections and to have served more than one full consecutive term.

But his foreign policy in the aftermath of the 11 September - including military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan - split public opinion and divided his own party. And his final months in office have been overshadowed by a police investigation into the alleged sale of honours.

GORDON BROWN, CHANCELLOR IN 1997, STILL IN POST

Gordon Brown
After ten years, the top job is within reach

Gordon Brown is the longest-serving chancellor of modern times and looks almost certain to take over as prime minister when Tony Blair stands down.

His first, and now widely applauded, move as chancellor in 1997 was to hand control of interest rates to the Bank of England. But another bold move in his first few weeks - a tax change which hit pension funds - has been the subject of recent criticism and been partly blamed for the closure of many final salary pension schemes.

He initially gained a reputation for fiscal prudence, sticking to Conservative spending plans for the first two years in government in the teeth of left wing opposition. This later became "prudence with a purpose", as he described it, and he put up taxes and increased spending on things such as schools and hospitals.

His time in charge of the economy has seen low interest rates, the introduction of tax credits for low-income families and a sustained period of economic growth and stability. Unemployment fell sharply in the early years of his stewardship but has started to creep up again recently.

JOHN PRESCOTT, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER IN 1997, STILL IN POST

John Prescott
Scandal forced Prescott to give up some of the perks of the job

John Prescott was initially given a mammoth fiefdom, with responsibility for environment, transport and the regions rolled into a single department.

Transport policy proved difficult with backbench rebellions over privatisation of air traffic control and problems with the rail system, but under his watch Britain took a lead in implementing the Kyoto treaty designed to reduce global emissions of CO2.

After a series of scandals in the lead-up to the May 2006 local elections - not least revelations of an affair with diary secretary Tracey Temple - his power and privileges were cut.

He kept his salary, an apartment at London's Admiralty House and other perks, but gave up his grace-and-favour country pile Dorneywood after being pictured on its lawns playing croquet with his staff.

He apologised for the embarrassment he had cause at the party conference in September 2006 and said he would stand down once Tony Blair goes.

MARGARET BECKETT, TRADE AND INDUSTRY SECRETARY IN 1997, STILL IN CABINET

Margaret Beckett

Margaret Beckett is one of the five remaining members from the original 1997 Cabinet, and one of the longest-serving Labour frontbenchers.

She came into the government as trade secretary but her tenure at a spending department only lasted until the prime minister's first reshuffle in 1998. She lost her post to one of the prime minister's closest political allies, Peter Mandelson.

As leader of the Commons she earned plaudits from all parties. She was responsible for modernising some Commons procedure although she faced some party flak for her role in the disastrous 1999 European elections campaign.

After the 2001 general election Mrs Beckett was made the first secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra) which incorporates sections of the old Maff, the demise of which was hastened by its handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis.

She became the first female Foreign Secretary in the biggest surprise of the May 2006 reshuffle.

JACK STRAW, HOME SECRETARY IN 1997, STILL IN CABINET

Jack Straw

The MP for Blackburn gained a reputation as a hardline home secretary - although he later looked less hardline when compared with his successors - bringing in tough anti-terrorist proposals and measures to curb anti-social behaviour.

Straw's watch also saw major rows over police numbers, as well as a rise in the amount of violent crime and the number of asylum seekers attempting to enter the country.

In a surprise move, he was appointed Foreign Secretary in the 2001 reshuffle just months before the 11 September attacks in America and the beginning of the so-called "war on terror".

He was soon pitched into the centre of the Blair government's greatest controversy - the war in Iraq. He later forged a close alliance with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, touring her home state of Alabama and hosting her return visit to his Blackburn constituency.

The May 2006 reshuffle saw him demoted to Leader of the House of Commons. It was suggested that Mr Straw's outspoken rejection of military action against Iran was at odds with the US line, which does not rule out any option on Iran - although Downing Street denied this was the reason for his demotion.

In September 2006, Mr Straw sparked a national debate after saying he asked Muslim women who attended his Blackburn constituency surgery to remove their veil. A man described as a "politician to his fingertips" he seems likely to continue in government after becoming campaign chief for Gordon Brown's efforts to succeed Tony Blair as Labour leader.

ROBIN COOK, FOREIGN SECRETARY IN 1997, LEFT CABINET 2003, DIED 2005

Robin Cook

Seen as possessing one of the sharpest minds at Westminster and formidable rhetorical skills, there were high expectations when Robin Cook took on the role of foreign secretary, but he had a rough ride in the job.

He effectively made himself a hostage to fortune by declaring that he would bring an "ethical dimension" to foreign policy - a vow which often came back to haunt him, particularly after he sanctioned the sale of 16 Hawk jet fighters to Indonesia.

In 1997 he divorced his wife Margaret after it was revealed he was having an affair with his secretary, Gaynor Regan - whom he later married.

He was demoted to become leader of the Commons in the 2001 post-election reshuffle, led widespread modernisation of the workings of Parliament. He resigned in spectacular fashion two years later, the only Cabinet minister to do so in protest at the plan to invade Iraq.

He died in August 2005, aged 59, after collapsing while hill-walking in Scotland. His stance on the Iraq war - and his resignation speech - helped ensure he is remembered as a great Parliamentarian.

DAVID BLUNKETT, EDUCATION SECRETARY IN 1997, LEFT CABINET 2004 & 2005

David Blunkett

David Blunkett became the UK's first blind Cabinet minister, when he was appointed education secretary in Tony Blair's first cabinet. He impressed Mr Blair in the role and after the 2001 general election was promoted to home secretary.

After 9/11, security and immigration dominated and he was not afraid to take on the legal establishment, dubbing those who stood in his way "airy-fairy libertarians".

But back in 1997 few would have predicted just how colourful and controversial Mr Blunkett's political career would turn out to be.

In 2004 news broke that Mr Blunkett had had an affair with a married magazine publisher, Kimberly Quinn, and was the father of her two-year-old son. The affair had a disastrous effect on his political career. Later that year, he had to step down as home secretary over claims his office had fast-tracked a visa application for her former nanny.

Mr Blair had great faith in his abilities and he was allowed to return to the Cabinet as work and pensions secretary after the 2005 general election. But he was forced to resign once more in November 2005 after breaking the ministerial code of conduct over paid work he took while out of the Cabinet.

CLARE SHORT, INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT SECRETARY IN 1997, LEFT CABINET 2003

Clare Short

A favourite of the party's grass roots, Clare Short was given the international development brief after the 1997 election victory.

The position was beefed up under Labour, gaining Cabinet rank for the first time. Ms Short was a driving force in pushing for third world debt cancellation. She also set testing targets for reducing global poverty.

She also continued to be one of the most outspoken Labour politicians - accusing the inhabitants of the disaster-hit Caribbean island of Montserrat of demanding "golden elephants" and criticising the party's reliance on "spin".

She resigned from her Cabinet post in May 2003 after the invasion of Iraq, accusing Tony Blair of breaking promises over Iraq's future and launching a scathing attack on his "presidential" style of government.

In February 2004 she provoked the government's ire once more when she told BBC Radio Four's Today programme that British spies listened in to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's office in the run-up to the Iraq war.

She resigned as a Labour MP on 20 October 2006 and now sits as an independent MP.

MO MOWLAM, NORTHERN IRELAND SECRETARY IN 1997, LEFT CABINET 2001, DIED 2005

Mo Mowlam

Mo Mowlam's straight talking and easy-going nature made her one of New Labour's most popular figures.

She was an early supporter of Tony Blair, who campaigned for his election as Labour leader. Giving her the job of Northern Ireland Secretary was seen as one of his more inspired - and imaginative - early appointments.

She was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 1997 and wore a wig after her illness caused her hair to fall out. This did not prevent her from playing a key role in establishing 1998's Good Friday Agreement, although she was disliked by some unionist politicians who feared she favoured the nationalist community.

She eventually lost the Northern Ireland job in 1999 to Peter Mandelson - despite declaring publicly that she was not ready to go - and she moved to the Cabinet Office, a demotion in all but name.

There were accusations of a whispering campaign against her - questions about her health and abilities - and in 2001 she retired from politics.

She died aged 55 on 19 August 2005 following a fall at her home.

CHRIS SMITH, CULTURE SECRETARY IN 1997, LEFT CABINET 2001

Chris Smith

Chris Smith was Britain's first openly gay Cabinet minister - but he had a difficult time in office.

He took control of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport against a background of high expectations, but had little money to spend as the chancellor enforced his decision to stick to Conservative spending plans for the first two years in office.

Other problems included the messy confusion over the National Lottery licence, the financial problem of the Royal Opera House, the failed plans for a new national stadium at Wembley and the troubled saga of the Millennium Dome.

The end of his tenure saw free entry to museums and plans for a shake-up of broadcasting regulation, replacing the existing system with a single watchdog named Ofcom.

He was forced to return to the backbenches after the 2001 elections and was replaced by Tessa Jowell.

He left the Commons at the 2005 election and was made a life peer under the title Baron Smith of Finsbury.

He was widely praised by campaigners after revealing he had been HIV positive for 17 years, saying he wanted to "demystify" the condition in the public's mind and challenge prejudices.

FRANK DOBSON, HEALTH SECRETARY IN 1997, LEFT CABINET 1999

Frank Dobson

Frank Dobson was a surprise choice for Blair's first health secretary, not having shadowed the portfolio prior to the election.

He held the key position until pressure grew for him to run against Ken Livingstone, first for the Labour nomination for London mayor and then for the post proper.

Mr Dobson had initially hoped to remain health secretary while running for mayor but soon found doing both jobs too much, standing down from the Department of Health in 1999.

In the mayoral election Mr Dobson was humiliated, and only narrowly avoided coming fourth.

He returned to the backbenches where he has been what is termed a "constructive critic" of the government.

ANN TAYLOR, COMMONS LEADER IN 1997, LEFT CABINET 2001

Ann Taylor

Ann Taylor - who came into the New Labour fold via the party's old right - started her Cabinet career as leader of the house, in which post she managed the government's Commons business.

In the 1998 reshuffle she was moved sideways to the position of chief whip, where she succeeded Nick Brown and became the first woman to hold the post.

Ms Taylor was perceived to have been both steady and hard working in her job, without maintaining a high media profile.

In 2001, she was dropped from the Cabinet and then became chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee which monitors the expenditure, administration and policy of the Security Service, GCHQ and the Secret Intelligence Service, on behalf of the prime minister.

She stepped down as an MP in the 2005 general election and was given a life peerage under the title Baroness Taylor of Bolton.

HARRIET HARMAN, SOCIAL SECURITY SECRETARY IN 1997, LEFT CABINET 1998

Harriet Harman

Harriet Harman's sacking was the headline from Tony Blair's first Cabinet reshuffle in 1998.

She left the post following high-profile disputes with fellow minister Frank Field and backbench anger over cuts to lone parent benefits.

Rather than follow the common route of becoming a rebel, she remained loyal to the government from the backbenches.

Her continued loyalty was recognised by an almost unprecedented return to government in 2001 when she was appointed Britain's first female Solicitor General.

After the 2005 election she took on the additional responsibility of constitutional affairs minister, with one of the most difficult briefs in Westminster - to reverse voter apathy and alienation.

In March 2006 her husband, Labour Treasurer Jack Dromey, called for an investigation into secret loans made to the Labour Party. As a result Ms Harman gave up parts of her role that involve overseeing election laws and House of Lords reform to avoid any potential conflict of interest.

She has launched a campaign for the deputy leadership of the Labour Party, saying there should be a woman at the top of government.

RON DAVIES, WELSH SECRETARY IN 1997, LEFT CABINET 1998

Rob Davies

Ron Davies had looked like a shoo-in to head Wales' new devolved government after piloting the measures through parliament as well as helping to pull-off a narrow 'Yes' vote in the devolution referendum.

But following an infamous "moment of madness" on London's Clapham Common he became the first member of Tony Blair's Cabinet to quit - in October 1998 - with his political career in tatters.

He also resigned as Labour's candidate to become the leader of the Welsh Assembly.

Mr Davies abandoned Westminster politics altogether, and became the first AM for Caerphilly in the 1999 Welsh Assembly elections.

He resigned from the Labour Party in 2004 because of his opposition to the Iraq war, joined the Forward Wales party but failed to get elected to the European Parliament as a candidate for that party in June 2004.

GAVIN STRANG, TRANSPORT SECRETARY IN 1997, LEFT CABINET 1998

Gavin Strang
A veteran of the Wilson and Callaghan governments of the 1970s, Gavin Strang became a victim of Tony Blair's first Cabinet reshuffle when he had the transport brief taken off him after failing to make an impression.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott overshadowed Mr Strang at the giant department for environment, transport and the regions.

After leaving the government, the MP for Edinburgh East became a vocal critic of the government's partial privatisation of the UK's air traffic control system, which he said compromised safety.

DONALD DEWAR, SCOTTISH SECRETARY IN 1997, LEFT CABINET 1999, DIED 2000

Donald Dewar

This widely respected Scottish elder statesman left Blair's Cabinet in 1999 after the Scottish parliamentary elections, taking up the post of first minister of Scotland. He was replaced by John Reid.

Donald Dewar had been the Scottish secretary since Labour came to office in 1997, and had steered the devolution legislation through parliament.

A dedicated MP, shadow spokesman and minister, Dewar won respect from across the political spectrum and will be remembered as the father of Scottish devolution.

He died in 2000, from a brain haemorrhage aged 63.

LORD IRVINE, LORD CHANCELLOR IN 1997, LEFT CABINET 2003

Lord Irvine

One of Tony Blair's closest friends and allies, Derry Irvine once headed the legal chambers where Mr Blair and future wife Cherie worked as barristers. He is godfather to one of the prime minister's sons.

Before he entered government in 1997, Lord Irvine was virtually unknown outside the legal profession. He went on to become one of the most well-known Lord Chancellors of modern times.

He hit the headlines early on after his decision to spend what was considered by the media and the opposition an inappropriate amount of money - 59,000 on wallpaper alone - refurbishing his government apartments.

The impartiality of his judicial role was also called into question when he wrote to Labour-supporting barristers asking them to contribute to party campaign funds.

In 2003, Lord Irvine retired amid plans for the role of Lord Chancellor to be scrapped, and was replaced by Lord Falconer, another of Tony Blair's close friends.

After a furore over the constitutional changes planned, the post of Lord Chancellor was retained under the Constitutional Reform Act of 2005 but with reduced powers. Lord Falconer is now Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs as well as Lord Chancellor.

JACK CUNNINGHAM, AGRICULTURE MINISTER IN 1997, LEFT CABINET 1999

Jack Cunningham

Jack Cunningham managed to survive as a Cabinet member until October 1999 - despite being tipped for the sack almost from the day Labour came to power.

He served the prime minister as both agriculture minister and Cabinet Office minister. He was responsible for the unpopular beef-on-the-bone ban.

As Tony Blair's "Cabinet enforcer" he had to defend the government line on the controversial issue of genetically-modified foods.

Since leaving the government Cunningham, who was a rare survivor of Labour's 1970s government, became an "elder statesman" figure on the backbenches until he stepped down as an MP in 2005. As Lord Cunningham he has played a significant role in plans for Lords reform.

GEORGE ROBERTSON, DEFENCE SECRETARY IN 1997, LEFT CABINET 1999

Lord Robertson

George Robertson - a long standing pro-European and staunch defender of the Nato Alliance - was given the defence portfolio on Labour's return to power.

He led the government's Strategic Defence Review - aimed at making Britain's armed forces more flexible and responsive to the strategic challenges of the modern world.

His earned plaudits for his handling of the Kosovo crisis in 1999 and he left the Cabinet shortly afterwards to become the secretary general of Nato, a post he held until 2004.

He was succeeded as defence secretary by Geoff Hoon. He was made Lord Robertson in August 1999.

NICK BROWN, CHIEF WHIP IN 1997, LEFT CABINET 2003

Nick Brown

Nick Brown held the crucial role of government fixer until the 1998 reshuffle when he moved to become the minister of agriculture.

He faced a tough job at the now defunct ministry of agriculture, fisheries and food (MAFF), with farm incomes plummeting and the British beef industry attempting to recover from the BSE crisis. The French ban on British beef imports, and outbreaks of swine fever and foot-and-mouth tested his competence to the limit. He was criticised for losing the trust of the public by claiming foot-and-mouth was under control.

As a result, in the 2001 Cabinet reshuffle, Brown was demoted to Minister for Work. A staunch supporter of Chancellor Gordon Brown, he was often accused by Blairites of briefing against the prime minister. He was dropped from the Cabinet in the June 2003 reshuffle.

SIR ROBIN BUTLER, CABINET SECRETARY IN 1997, RETIRED 1998

Lord Butler

The career civil servant had already served under four prime ministers - Edward Heath, Harold Wilson, Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

He was almost killed in the IRA bomb attack at the Grand Hotel in Brighton in 1984.

He served for 37 years in the civil service before retiring in 1998. Now known as Lord Butler of Brockwell, he was made a life peer and served in the House of Lords as a cross-bencher.

In 2004 he led the inquiry into intelligence behind the decision to go to war in Iraq.

His report, known as the Butler Report, concluded there were serious flaws in intelligence reports that stated Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

It also contained sharp criticism of Tony Blair's informal "sofa" style of government - a theme Lord Butler has expanded on in interviews since the report's publication.

LORD IVOR RICHARD, LEADER OF LORDS IN 1997, LEFT CABINET 1998

Lord Richard

Lord Richard ended six years as Labour's leader in the House of Lords during Blair's first reshuffle in 1998.

After the election Labour faced more than 30 rebellions in the Lords as peers voiced their unrest at plans such as reducing the gay age of consent.

Lord Richard was an old Labour hand, but Mr Blair preferred to give the job of steering through the government's programme and controversial blueprint for Lords reform to Lady Jay, the daughter of the former Labour prime minister Jim Callaghan.

In 2002 Lord Richard was asked to chair a commission of the future powers of the Welsh Assembly. The report, published in March 2004 recommended the Assembly should have full law-making powers in devolved areas such as health and education by 2011.

It also wants to increase the number of AMs from 60 to 80 because of the extra responsibilities which would come with more power.

ALISTAIR DARLING, CHIEF TREASURY SECRETARY IN 1997, STILL IN CABINET

Alastair Darling

Alistair Darling was essentially Gordon Brown's number two. Trusted by Brown in this post he was soon promoted.

Mr Darling benefited from the demise of Harriet Harman in the 1998 re-shuffle when he became secretary of state for social security - which was renamed work and pensions secretary during his stint.

Running with the brief of reforming welfare Mr Darling faced much criticism, particularly from pensioners, as well as suffering the occasional backbench rebellion over changes to the benefits system.

He was given the sensitive transport portfolio in 2002 after the resignation of Stephen Byers following a number of controversies.

One year later, he also took on the added responsibility of Scottish affairs still dealt with at Westminster.

In the 2005 reshuffle - by which time he had gained the reputation of a competent and safe ministerial pair of hands - he became trade and industry secretary, working closely with the chancellor, and one of his key tasks has been to cut unnecessary red tape and stimulate business.

In 2006 he announced plans for a new wave of UK nuclear power stations that would help meet the government's target of cutting carbon emissions by 60% by 2050. He is tipped for a top role under a Gordon Brown premiership.

DAVID CLARK, CHANCELLOR OF DUCHY OF LANCASTER IN 1997, LEFT CABINET 1998

David Clark

David Clark was sacked by Tony Blair in the 1998 Cabinet reshuffle. His political demise was widely predicted - so much so that Clark spoke out against the unnamed sources tipping him for the high-jump.

He was responsible for drawing up proposals for a Freedom of Information Bill while he headed the Cabinet Office for which he won praise from civil liberty pressure groups.

Often low key in manner, since he joined the backbenches Clark has only been outspoken on the progress of Labour's open government legislation.

In 2000 he made a failed attempt to become Speaker as MPs voted for a replacement for Betty Boothroyd. In 2001 he stood down as an MP for South Shields and was replaced by rising star David Miliband.

He was made a life peer and sits in the House of Lords.




FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific