Thursday, June 28, 2007

The New Cabinet

Now we've seen the full change in line-up, two themes emerge: "the next generation" and "change in foreign policy stance". The latter has resulted in most of the American papers doing "Brown appoints his cabinet" stories (probably the first time the American papers have covered British cabinet reshuffles).

Here's what Time magazine had to say: The new Foreign Secretary is unlikely to charm any neocons. Skeptical about the war in Iraq, David Miliband also protested in Cabinet last year at the British handling of the conflagration in Lebanon. They also note the appointment of Mark Malloc-Brown as Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN. Mark Malloc-Brown last year criticised the USA for "too much unchecked UN bashing and stereotyping," and added that "the prevailing practice of seeking to use the U.N. almost by stealth as a diplomatic tool while failing to stand up for it against its domestic critics is simply not sustainable." The New York Times takes a similar line, leading on the choice of Foreign Secretary and noting his anti-war concerns. I would say that the Americans have got the "change" message loud and clear, even if some Brits haven't quite twigged what has happened.

The other anti-war appointment of course is John Denham, who honorably resigned over Iraq. He comes back to look after universities and skills.

On the "next generation" theme, we have Jacqui Smith, age 44 as Home Secretary. This is a really bold appointment. Being Home Secretary is no picnic, and giving it to a young woman will please all those who've been irritated that women have hitherto been given "soft" jobs like Culture. David Miliband, aged 41, also represents the new generation as Foreign Secretary. Ed Balls (schools) is 40. Douglas Alexander (international development) and Ruth Kelly (transport) are both 39. James Purnell (culture) and Ed Miliband (cabinet office) are 37.

These are people who came in under New Labour, and represent the future of the Labour party. Under the watchful eye of the experienced Gordon Brown, they are being given their chance to show us what they are made of. Brown is essentially doing what Kinnock did for him and Tony Blair; bringing on the next generation (a duty Blair should have have attended to, but he was too self-absorbed to bother). One of this cohort will emerge as the successor to Brown in six to eight years.

All-in-all I'd say it was a good day's work.

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