Sunday, June 24, 2007

Who's out of the Cabinet?

After all the brouhaha over Mr Brown's attempts to create a government of all the talents (just some talent would be a bonus), it's surely time to turn to the key question: who is out as Gordon comes in? Which politicians are going to be clearing their pencils from their desk and bidding a final farwell to the ministry concierge? And who, it might be added, may even now be sitting by their phone, biting their fingernails away in expectation of that call which never comes?

Presumably Pope Benedict will lose his place as a photo on a ministerial desk as -- according to all sources -- his greatest fan and, indeed, Mr Blair's future co-religionist, Ms Ruth Kelly is shown the door. Few tears will be shed. Meanwhile, in the lower reaches of the government, junior ministers don't come more controversial than Lord Adonis, father of tuition fees (and, in the dim and distant past, an Oxford councillor -- for us). Some newspapers are predicting that he will stay around after Wednesday but that might come as news to him. At a function on Friday, Adonis was exuding all the insouciance of a man about to escape from the clutches of responsibility, ready to ride off into the sunset to meet his destiny -- writing a biography as weighty as its subject, Roy Jenkins.

What is equally interesting is who is not being tipped for office. From my Oxford perspective, there is one man who is notably absent from all reports -- a former Cabinet minister, a close ally of the next Prime Minister: Andrew Smith, MP for Oxford East. At the time of his appointment to the long table in No. 10, there were some cruel journalists who described him as the man who rose without trace. His only skilful act was his departure, resigning before he was pushed, to spend more time in his constituency in the run-up to the last election. And there he of course achieved the feat of becoming the MP with the amazingly shrinking majority. The limits of his influence on Downing Street were clear only a few months ago when he failed to ensure Oxford was on the list of possible unitary authorities. He was one of those who had been a contender. He was an insider who'd become an outsider -- and there, it seems, he will stay.

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