Civil engineers have three new secretaries of state and a new government department to deal with after a chaotic week in Westminster that saw a Cabinet reshuffle follow disastrous European and local elections for prime minister Gordon Brown.
In the European elections, Labour slipped to third place in the polls on 15.3% of the vote, behind the Conservatives on 28.6%, and UKIP on 17.4%
The result followed equally poor results in the local government elections and was, according to Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman, “dismal”.
Brown’s reshuffle was complicated by 10 members, who are entitled to sit in on cabinet meetings leaving their posts.
Brown’s reshuffle was complicated by
10 members leaving their posts:
- Hazel Blears (Communities)
- Geoff Hoon (Transport)
- John Hutton (Defence)
- Paul Murphy (Wales)
- James Purnell (Work and Pensions)
- Jacqui Smith (Home Secretary)
- Tony McNulty (London)
- Margaret Beckett (Housing)
- Beverley Hughes (Children)
- Caroline Flint (Europe)
- Tom Watson (no brief)
- Jane Kennedy (Environment)
Lord Adonis is promoted to transport secretary, with Geoff Hoon stepping down following revelations about his parliamentary expenses. Adonis is the fourth transport secretary since Douglas Alexander replaced Alistair Darling in the role in May 2006. Sadiq Khan joins as transport minister.
Lord Mandelson now commands the newly-formed super-department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which merges the old Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills with the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. A new construction minister was also due to be announced as NCE went to press.
John Denham replaces Hazel Blears as communities secretary, but Hilary Benn remains as environment secretary.
Criticism from all sides
Conservative leader David Cameron said of Brown’s reshuffle: “The prime minister isn’t reshuffling his cabinet, they’re reshuffling themselves… A Prime Minister with that little authority can’t take the tough decisions this country needs.” Cameron also re-issued his call for a general election.
Brown’s woes began on Tuesday when home secretary Jacqui Smith decided to stand down following rows over her expenses.
Communities secretary Hazel Blears followed the next day, wearing a brooch proclaiming herself “rocking the boat”.
The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were quick to capitalise on the Labour storm. Cameron said the government was “collapsing before our eyes”, while the Liberal Democrats leader Nick Clegg declared the Labour party “finished”.