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Tuesday, 12 June, 2001, 17:15 GMT 18:15 UK
Reshuffle shows 'cronyism' - MP
Tam Dalyell
Dalyell: Made 'cronyism' charge against Blair
Veteran Labour MP Tam Dalyell has accused Tony Blair of showing "cronyism" in his government reshuffle.


I criticise the prime minister for appointing one of his own staff to reinforce a subject on what he is vulnerable - Tony's cronies

Tam Dalyell
Mr Dalyell, who as the longest serving MP is now the so-called "Father of the House", particularly criticised the appointment of close Blair aide Sally Morgan as a minister.

Ms Morgan, Mr Blair's long-time political secretary, is being given a peerage and made minister for women.

Spatchcocked into Lords

Mr Dalyell said Ms Morgan had been "spatchcocked" into the Lords and argued that "apparatchiks" often made bad ministers.

"Before people become ministers they ought to have served at least a couple of months if not years in parliament," said Mr Dalyell.

"This seems like the worst kind of cronyism in order to make good relations in the Downing Street office a bit easier."

Lord Macdonald
Macdonald: New 'enforcer' role

The MP for Linlithgow also objected to the appointment of Lord McDonald under Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott in the Cabinet Office.

"I first knew him as a very difficult Trotskyite on Clydeside," said Mr Dalyell.

"He then metamorphised into a member of the SDP.

"He was a chum of Donald Dewar and got into office that way.

"I think it's a bit rich that he should be an enforcer not elected by anybody to anything."

More than 20 ministers left the government in what has been called a ruthless reshuffle.

Careers cut short

Mr Dalyell criticised the sacking of the former health minister Gisela Stuart.

And he named outgoing Foreign Office Minister John Battle and Agriculture Minister Joyce Quinn as others who had lost their jobs despite performing well.

"I'm really sorry that some promising careers seem to have been cut short," he added.

"And there are a whole lot of MPs from the 1997 intake and before, who've gone through the whole process of election and might have expected to have been promoted, and I'm heartfelt sorry for them."

The prime minister's official spokesman has told reporters Mr Blair is not concerned that he might face criticism for appointing Ms Morgan.

He said: "Ms Morgan is someone who is extremely able.

"Her appointment underlines the importance the prime minister attaches to strengthening the centre and the Cabinet Office where there was a very strong team."

Michael returns

Mr Blair's reshuffle included the much expected departure of Europe Minister Keith Vaz and a surprise recall for former Social Security Secretary Harriet Harman.

Former Welsh First Minister Alun Michael is also returning to government - as rural affairs minister.

Another high profile casualty was Sports Minister Kate Hoey. She is replaced by Richard Caborn.

Former Pensions Minister Jeff Rooker, who retired at the election to go to the Lords, has been made Home Office minister with responsibility for asylum.

Lord Falconer stays in charge of the Dome, but adds housing and planning to his portfolio.

Newcomers

Those joining the government for the first time include Denis MacShane and Ben Bradshaw, who become junior ministers at the foreign office.

Hilary Benn, son of veteran left-winger Tony Benn, enters government in the department for international development.

Stephen Twigg, who famously beat Michael Portillo in 1997, has been made parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to Leader of the Commons Robin Cook.

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See also:

12 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Blair under fire over pay
12 Jun 01 | UK Politics
The new government team
11 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Ministerial winners and losers
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