Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Stirrings among Labour Backbenchers, a New Search for Blair, and Cilla Speaks Out

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Stirrings among Labour Backbenchers, a New Search for Blair, and Cilla Speaks Out

Article excerpt

Interesting signals from the Parliamentary Labour Party. In a secret ballot, some distinctly non-Blair figures have been elected to the Parliamentary Committee, the bridge between the back benches and government. Two MPs, Chris Mullin and Bridget Prentice, stood down because they are now ministers, while Gordon Prentice gave up his seat because he regards the operation as a pointless farce. In their place, backbenchers voted for John Cryer, the first Campaign Group member to get on the committee; the loyalist (but not slave) Janet Anderson, a former tourism minister; and George Howarth, late of the Northern Ireland Office, and another freed spirit. Even more remarkably, the voluble lefty Neil Gerrard nearly made it.

Quite plainly, Blair expects to get away scot-free from the clutches of Lord Hutton. He is already working on a major cabinet reshuffle, likened by one source to "a reconstruction of government". Civil servants have been briefed to expect nothing less than a palace revolution, which will claim the life of the Defence Secretary, "Buff" Hoon. But the bloodletting will not stop there, and speculation is mounting that the Great Helmsman might even try to get rid of his first mate, Gordon Brown. The Chancellor has calmed down from his raging-bull condition of a week ago, but red rags are still best avoided.

Channel 4 is filming a three-part series on Tony Blair, to be screened next summer for the PM's tenth anniversary as party leader. Always assuming he gets there. …

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