Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Carnage Ahead, Warns Brown's Allies as Blair Strengthens Hand; PM Set to Poach Chancellor's Star to Be Milburn Deputy

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Carnage Ahead, Warns Brown's Allies as Blair Strengthens Hand; PM Set to Poach Chancellor's Star to Be Milburn Deputy

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL WAUGH

LABOUR TONY BLAIR was finishing his Government reshuffle today amid rising anger among Gordon Brown's supporters.

Tensions were high amid rumours that Ruth Kelly, one of the Chancellor's rising stars in the Treasury would be poached by the Prime Minister.

Ms Kelly was tipped to become deputy to Alan Milburn, who was brought back into the Cabinet by Mr Blair to run Labour's general election campaign and oversee Government policy.

That placed a serious question mark over the position of Douglas Alexander, Mr Brown's former protege who lost two of his key roles to Mr Milburn last night.

Mr Alexander was said to be negotiating for another senior position after being replaced by the former Health Secretary as election coordinator and government member on Labour's ruling national executive.

In what Blairites presented as a battle for the soul of a thirdterm Labour government, Mr Milburn was given a central role that suggested he was being groomed as a natural successor to Mr Blair. The appointment of Alan Johnson to replace Andrew Smith as Work and Pensions Secretary was also projected as a victory for Number 10 over a part of Whitehall long seen as part of Mr Brown's fiefdom.

The "limited" reshuffle will be completed today, with Mr Johnson's post as Higher Education Minister set to be filled and other junior level changes having to be made.

No 10 said that Mr Milburn had a raft of jobs that put him at the heart of the Government. He will become chairman of the party's election planning group and a member of the election strategy group chaired by Mr Blair.

After bargaining hard with the Prime Minister, he was also given a wide role over Government policy, supervising the work of the Number 10 policy directorate and strategy unit. He will " coordinate the development of policy across Whitehall," an official said.

A senior Government source emphasised that the party leader had always chaired the general election strategy group, contrary to claims from the Brown camp that their man had occupied the post in 1997 and 2001. The reshuffle was seized on today by the Tories as creating a cabinet of "Two Chancellors" with Mr Milburn's courtesy title of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster sure to be used to needle Mr Brown. …

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