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GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE SEES LITTLE CHANGE AT THE TOP

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Tony Blair yesterday underlined his faith in private sector expertise by appointing Gus Macdonald, former chairman ...
Tony Blair yesterday underlined his faith in private sector expertise by appointing Gus Macdonald, former chairman of Scottish Media, to the position of transport minister.

The Financial Times (p11) reports that Mr Blair's summer reshuffle sees Lord Macdonald replacing Helen Liddell, who is moving to the department of trade and industry.

Other significant moves include the announcement by Glenda Jackson, the junior transport minister, that she would quit her post in order to stand as a challenger to be Labour's candidate for mayor of London.

Also going for mayoral job is Tony Banks, who quit his job as sports minister. He is understood to have told Mr Blair he wanted to step down three weeks ago and the prime minister agreed that he would continue to front England's bid to host the 2006 football World Cup.

The Guardian (p4) says the decision of Ms Jackson and Mr Banks to announce their mayoral ambitions must mean the question of who should be Labour's candidate is about to come to a head. Until now, the paper says, the obvious candidate who might win the seat for Labour was Ken Livingstone.

The present minister for London, Nick Raynsford, has also been named in connection with the job. He has had the job of piloting the complex London bill through Parliament and is a brilliant technician and 'quiet charmer to boot'.

And the Evening Standard reports that Mr Raynsford's mayoral ambitions will be boosted today as he is promoted a grade to become minister of state.

The FT says the reshuffle kept the cabinet virtually intact and reconstructed the middle ranks of government. An offical said more than 12 new faces would be brought in, 13 ministers moved sideways and 11 promototed.

Paul Murphy, who was until yesterday Mo Mowlam's deputy in the Northern Ireland Office, is the new face in the cabinet as Welsh secretary - a job that may well be phased out in the next government overhaul.

Melanie Johnson, parliamentary aide to treasury minister Barbara Roche, will also be promoted. She has interests in education and was an inspector for Ofsted before becoming an MP. She will be joined by Beverley Hughes, parliamentary private secretary to Hilary Armstrong, the local government minister.

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