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Thursday, July 29, 1999 Published at 07:57 GMT 08:57 UK

UK Politics

Blair completes reshuffle

No change at top in Tony Blair's government reshuffle

After making almost no change in his Cabinet, Prime Minister Tony Blair is set to complete his government reshuffle.

Max Cotton reports: "Tony Blair will face criticisms from his opponents"
The Cabinet shift was the appointment of a new Welsh secretary in place of Alun Michael, who is now first secretary in the National Assembly for Wales.

He is replaced by the Minister for Political Development at the Northern Ireland Office, Paul Murphy.

[ image: Paul Murphy: New face in the Cabinet]
Paul Murphy: New face in the Cabinet
Instead, the prime minister is focusing on bringing new faces into the middle and junior ranks of his government.

But the Conservatives say Mr Blair has "flunked" an opportunity to improve his team's performance.

Banks and Jackson quit

The biggest surprise of the reshuffle so far was the decision of two of the government's best-known figures to resign.

Glenda Jackson: "I'm in no position to know if I was going to be pushed or not"
Double-Oscar winning actress Glenda Jackson resigned as a junior transport minister to join the contest to become the first directly-elected mayor of London.

Sports Minister Tony Banks also leaves the government to contest next May's election and to become a special envoy for Britain's bid to host the 2006 World Cup.

[ image: Glenda Jackson: To challenge Ken Livingstone to become Labour candidate for mayor]
Glenda Jackson: To challenge Ken Livingstone to become Labour candidate for mayor
Among the other senior figures leaving the government is the former chairman of BP, Lord Simon of Highbury.

The competitiveness minister is understood to have become disenchanted with the government's position on the euro.

His position at the Department of Trade and Industry is taken by Transport Minister Helen Liddell. She is replaced by the Scotland Office minister Lord Macdonald.

The deputy leader of the House of Lords, Lord Williams of Mostyn, succeeds John Morris as attorney general and Foreign Office minister Tony Lloyd also leaves the government.

From the ranks of Labour MPs elected for the first time in 1997, Alan Johnson, Melanie Johnson and Beverley Hughes join the government.

Others tipped for promotion are Education Minister Estelle Morris and junior Treasury Minister Patricia Hewitt - while those ministers who may be fired include several from John Prescott's Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

Big names to stay

The lack of change at the top comes despite widespread speculation in the media over recent days on the future of several key ministers.

Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam, Health Secretary Frank Dobson and Cabinet Office minister Jack Cunningham were all among those who the pundits had expected to be shifted in the reshuffle. They are all set to stay in their positions.

[ image: Andrew Lansley:
Andrew Lansley: "Ministers faced the prime minister down"
The prime minister's official spokesman said Mr Blair was aiming to "strengthen the government's public service delivery to promote existing ministers and bring new talent into the government".

He added: "It was never the intention of the prime minister to carry out a major reshuffle at this stage whatever the welter of press reports to the contrary.

"Equally the suggestion that there has been a delay is utter nonsense.

"It is the first full day the prime minister has been able to devote to this."

But Conservative Party spokesman Andrew Lansley said the prime minister has failed to deliver on a Cabinet reshuffle.

He said: "The prime minister on Monday was forced to admit that the government wasn't delivering on all its election promises.

"The prime minister's most powerful weapon to remedy underperformance in government is to change his team and to bring on new talent.

"This suggest either he doesn't have the new talent to bring on or he is now prisoner of his own Cabinet and unable to change his team."

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