In just a week’s time, Tony Blair will finally leave Downing Street for the last time, and the bloke from next door will move in, prompting a curious and potentially unprecedented Cabinet reshuffle. We all know it’s coming, and we know several big changes have to happen – but we don’t yet know exactly how far-reaching it will all be.
Let’s run through what we know: and can I say for the record, I don’t have any particular insight here. This is little more than ‘bloke in the pub’ status.
- Gordon Brown will be leaving the Treasury, obviously. That’s one very important vacancy to be filled – and potentially two.
- John Reid has already pledged to leave the Home Office, so that’s another empty seat. At least they can rest assured there won’t presumably be any further remit changes, following the recent spinning-off of Justice.
- You won’t find too many people expecting Margaret Beckett and Patricia Hewitt to be staying in their current top-rank jobs. So that’s health and foreign affairs to be filled too.
- There’s been plenty of speculation about the future of the DTI, questioning its very existence. In the current climate (pardon the pun), you can easily imagine energy policy being combined with Environment; science used to belong to Education, and could easily do so again. What would that leave?
- Then, of course, there’s the Labour deputy leadership vote. Alan Johnson seems to be favourite there, and has apparently said he would want to stay as Education Secretary (subject, naturally, to the new PM’s wishes). Would the two other Cabinet-level candidates want to keep their current roles?
- As I’m writing this, Michael Crick is telling Jeremy Paxman that Brown intends to bring in non-Labour Party people at junior Minister level (but apparently not at Cabinet level). Think of the implications there?!
So we could be looking at numerous new secretaries of state, new departments or radically redrawn departmental boundaries, and Ministers who don’t necessarily endorse the governing party’s view. Or perhaps not. At least when you look to a change of government at a general election, you have the party manifestos to work from. Not this time. Only rumours, only speculation.
As I’ve blogged before, reshuffles are a great opportunity to see which departments are ‘on the ball’. Departmental websites are surely now the primary ‘shop window’ – and expectations are high. Is it too much for users to expect all the changes to be documented and reflected ‘on the day’? Or rather, is there anything a department can do to prepare, when it doesn’t have a clue what might happen? (You can’t exactly register new domains speculatively!)
I know of a couple of Whitehall departments’s web teams who are (sensibly) making active preparations for what might happen. But the prospect of non-Labour ministers takes us into completely new territory. If he/she wanted to run a blog, and wanted to pass comment on an aspect of Labour policy (to which he/she never formally signed up), where does that leave us? Interesting times indeed.
Update: ‘a Cabinet post!’ ‘A Cabinet post? Did you say that?’ ‘I did say that.’ ‘Wonderful.’