Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

David Miliband to Soar, a Cull of Scottish MPs, and a Vacancy in Tunbridge Wells. (the Insider)

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

David Miliband to Soar, a Cull of Scottish MPs, and a Vacancy in Tunbridge Wells. (the Insider)

Article excerpt

The ministerial rumour mill is picking up speed at Westminster. The latest version sees Blair's mini-reshuffle in the wake of Robin Cook's resignation as merely the precursor of a more far-reaching cabinet reconstruction. In this, David Miliband, the teacher's pet, zooms up from his middle-ranking position at Education to become Home Secretary. David Blunkett, the gaffe-prone Home Secretary; is demoted to Health. And the Health Secretary, Alan Milburn, who has made such a comprehensive hash of selling foundation hospitals to Labour MPs, returns to the back benches. Such surgery would end the leadership hopes of Blunkett and Milburn. A small, long-shot wager on a Miliband succession could be worthwhile. He is clearly being groomed for something.

They are already calling it the Lowland Clearances, because so many Labour MPs face the loss of their seats in the densely populated central belt of Scotland. Thirteen of the 72 seats are to go, and several cabinet ministers could disappear by order of the Boundary Commission. Gordon Brown's Fife constituency may go, but Scots MPs say that his neighbour, the crop-haired, bullnecked "oh what a lovely war!" defence minister Lewis Moonie, will fall on his sword for him. Alistair Darling could be less fortunate in Edinburgh Central, and is expected to go back to being a lawyer. Some would say he never stopped being one. John Reid, the new Leader of the House, is a definite casualty in Hamilton North and Bellshill, and is reportedly casting envious eyes on the English seat of Blaydon, where John McWilliam has agreed to stand down early to avoid the imposition of an all-women shortlist on his local party. There is even a risk to Helen Liddell, the Scottish Secretary; if it comes to a fist fight with Tom Clarke in n eighbouring Coatbridge, be cautious with your bets. The MPs have no one to blame but themselves. …

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