Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Reshuffle at Dawn to Shore Up PM; Aides Urge Blair to Fight Back with Snap Changes to Cabinet

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Reshuffle at Dawn to Shore Up PM; Aides Urge Blair to Fight Back with Snap Changes to Cabinet

Article excerpt

Byline: JOE MURPHY;JASON BEATTIE

TONY BLAIR is being pressed to carry out a "fightback reshuffle" tomorrow to reassert his authority after heavy local election losses.

It would mean snap changes to the Cabinet tomorrow morning with a wider shake-up of the middle and junior ranks after the weekend.

Mr Blair is thought to prefer a limited reshuffle - but senior aides, led by strategy adviser Matthew Taylor, want him to be radical and order sweeping changes to Cabinet jobs and faces to show he is in charge.

The radical proposal would involve Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt and Work and Pensions Secretary John Hutton swapping jobs, putting the difficult National Health Service brief under new management.

Mr Taylor's blueprint would see embattled Education Secretary Ruth Kelly moving to trade and industry - changing posts with Alan Johnson, a rising star who pushed through top-up fees.

Although many think Mr Blair would be wary of going that far, he is strongly tipped to promote loyalists such as David Miliband, Hazel Blears and Jim Murphy.

Mr Miliband, John Prescott's deputy at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, could be given a beefed-up portfolio with Secretary of State status.

His exact role will depend on Mr Prescott, 67, who is under pressure to step down in the wake of his affair with diary secretary Tracey Temple. Friends of Mr Prescott have reportedly spent the weekend urging him to withdraw from the front line and concentrate on repairing his marriage.

The Prime Minister is also expected to shake up the whips' office following recent bungles which saw the Government defeated on the racial and religious hatred Bill.

Insiders say Mr Blair has still not decided whether he will give Brownites Ed Balls and Ed Miliband their first taste of ministerial responsibility. "It depends on whether he decides to send a message he is trying to unite the party or whether he wants to reward his loyalists," said the source. …

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