The British newspapers have been full of analysis of the resignations of Jacqui Smith and Hazel Blears, but the big news is still to come with Brown’s cabinet reshuffle, pencilled in for either tomorrow or Monday next week. For me there are 2 crucial decisions that will determine how all of this works out.
First of all it has been widely rumoured that Peter Mandelson might be moved to the Foreign Office, replacing David Miliband. Aside from the oddity of having one of the major cabinet positions occupied by a member of the House of Lords, I think there is no justification whatsoever for Miliband to be moved. He’s been like a breath of fresh air at the FCO in comparison to Margaret Beckett his predecessor. So Miliband should refuse to move, and if forced out, should resign from Cabinet – and if that happens Brown is surely finished. Miliband’s determination to get to the very top was questioned last summer – he cannot be seen to blink again. If Miliband himself does accept a demotion that’s it for him for the forseeable future – others will have to lead Labour in the post-Brown era instead.
Secondly it has been suggested that Alistair Darling will be moved from The Treasury and replaced by Ed Balls. I’ve never been immensely impressed by Darling and, on expenses matters alone, a case could be made to replace him. But the replacement – if any – should absolutely not be Ed Balls. Brown’s bullying and abrasive henchman was at the Treasury with Brown during the boom times, and has probably already been over-promoted. Putting someone as unquestionably loyal as Balls as Chancellor is cronyism and will further weaken Brown and the Cabinet. If Balls is installed at the Treasury I wonder how many more backbenchers will sign letters opposing Brown?
Let’s see what happens, it’s sure to be an interesting few days.