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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 June, 2003, 09:43 GMT 10:43 UK
It's reshuffle time again

By Nick Assinder
BBC News Online political correspondent

Summertime heralds cabinet reshuffle
The sun is shining, the birds are singing and ministers are planning their holidays - so it must be time to sack some of them (the ministers that is).

And, sure enough, Tony Blair appears to be sharpening his knives for the annual cabinet clearout aimed at re-invigorating his top team.

Or taking revenge and rewarding the crawlers, depending on your level of cynicism.

The question this year is whether he is planning to charge into the cabinet room swinging a meat cleaver around his head.

Or whether he is fumbling about in his bottom drawer searching for his pen knife.

The war on Iraq was supposed to have so strengthened his position that he could emerge from it powerful enough to do whatever he liked and sack whoever he liked.

Smugly in charge

Gordon Brown, John Prescott, Robin Cook and Clare Short were all going to be dumped and he was even going to take us into the euro.

Emperor Tony was going to cut through the cabinet ranks like Caligula enjoying a bank holiday massacre.

Thanks to his glorious victory over the evil butcher of Baghdad, no one would have had the guts to challenge him - and if they did he would have removed their entrails for them.

Except it hasn't quite turned out like that.

Brown is still in control
Baghdad bounce has turned into Iraq embarrassment and the prime minister is facing serious challenges from within his own party, even his own cabinet.

Gordon Brown is still smugly in charge of the euro reins and we aren't joining for the foreseeable future.

Robin Cook and Clare Short denied him his moment of revenge by getting their retaliation in first - and quitting on principle.

And major rebellions are looming over foundation hospitals, the WMD inquiry and the entire area of public service reform.

More trouble

The Tories, meanwhile, have found new heart and a couple of eye catching policies in the shape of abolishing tuition fees and reforming the NHS.

So, to get back to the point, will it be a night of the long knives or the day of the ditherer?

Will the prime minister push ahead with a major reshuffle aimed at creating the cabinet he wants to lead the government into the next general election, which may be only two years away?

Or will he hold fire for fear of sparking even more trouble. Will he even bother at all?

It seems pretty clear that he will do something. For a start off he has four junior ministerial posts to fill as a result of the recent resignations.

And there has been the usual outpourings of speculation from everybody and his dog about who is up, who is down, and who is out.

Do less

Some of the more extreme include the sack for Education Secretary Charles Clarke, re-employing Peter Mandelson and yet another job for Blair's attack-hound John Reid.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn is said to want a move before the NHS reforms engulf him beyond hope and John Prescott is also said to want either out or to do even less than he does now.

Then there's talk about Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon being rewarded for not messing up the war and of Margaret Beckett, Patricia Hewitt and Peter Hain all being moved.

Lord Irvine is confidently predicted to be on the way out as the prime minister finally creates a new ministry of justice.

And no doubt numerous ministers no one has ever heard of will be given their chance to shine.

Only one thing is certain, speculation is futile. So let's stop.




SEE ALSO:
Iraq war 'could have been illegal'
09 Jun 03  |  Politics
This soap opera will run and run
10 Jun 03  |  Politics


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