Thursday, September 04, 2008

Why Brown needs to be bold (but won't be)

With the blog-o-sphere wetting itself over rumours that Brown will hold a snap reshuffle on Monday, the excellent asks if Brown has to "do a McCain" and produce a brave (even shocking) new cabinet line up.

I think that with his position undermined; the economic rescue plan a flop and Norwich MP Charles Clarke like a bull in a china shop; Brown actually has very little choice.

The current worries surround his Miliband-Darling problem; actually I think he still has some wriggle room. Darling essentially has to go - a straight sacking if he won't take a shift to, say, Leader of the House. Miliband should then be offered the Treasury; and should be removed if he won't take it. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith should be despatched to spend more time in her ultra-marginal constituency - but won't be. I'd do something very similar to McCain here - and appoint her as the new Deputy Prime Minister. Potentially Brown could lose all three of his most senior minister, but that would certainly stamp his authority on the government and send shock waves through the parliamentary Labour Party. So, who is going to step up to the plate?

Brown should accept that Balls isn't popular enough to take one of the top jobs but should earn the affections of the party in a tough portfolio - say, Work & Pensions. Heal the rifts of the party with other appointments; John Denham to the Home Office, Alan Johnson to the Foreign Office and John Hutton to the Treasury. That also has the bonus of tieing Hutton the the success of the government and also the Blairite rump to Brown. Plus you could offset this glut of middle aged men with a new female DPM and also another surprising female appointment...

Des Browne should be sacked outright - and replaced with a female Defence Secretary, my choice being Hazel Blears. It may even give her the gravitas she needs to move later on into a more senior government position.

Jack Straw should stay at Justice; he is becoming the rock of both Brown's government and the Labour Party. He should stick this government out from beginning to end. Give Hilary Benn a chance to show what he can do - either Health or Education would do, with the other job being given to James Purnell. Harriet Harman should be left in her non-jobs and kept away from doing the party harm. Andy Burnham could replace Hutton at Business with David Lammy replacing him at Culture. Having given ex-Tory Shaun Woodward the NI job, I think Brown will have to stand by him. Ed Miliband could take up where his brother left off at Environment.

That would be pretty radical; a female DPM and also a female Defence Secretary. New younger MPs put in charge of the big public sector departments. Blairite safe pairs of hands taking the top jobs. Miliband and Darling taken care of. And why won't Brown do any of this? He's too unsure of his own position and won't risk taking on his party. He doesn't seem to have the fight left in him.

A radical reshuffle followed by a well trailed set piece speech could yet save the Brown premiership. But don't bet on it.

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