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Labour switches focus to jobs

The changes announced this week in the middle ranks of Labour's front bench prepare the way for an autumn offensive in the run-up to the election.

The education team remains unchanged, but there is a new emphasis in the employment brief on challenging Conservative charges that Labour's policy on the European social chapter will cost jobs and restore trade union power.

In the wake of the departure of Michael Meacher, the former employment spokesman, who has been moved sideways to environment protection, David Blunkett, takes sole charge of employment and education.

On employment issues, his deputy will be Ian McCartney, who takes on the Meacher portfolio, but without Cabinet status. In addition, Peter Hain, a highly effective left-winger, has been moved from the Whips Office to take charge of Labour's campaign against "job insecurity".

Stephen Byers remains part of both education and employment teams, and also has a new campaigning role. The part of his brief that takes in trade union rights has been expanded to give him responsibility for industrial relations .

In addition, he takes the lead on training and is involved in the development of policy on 14-19 education.

The roles of Bryan Davies (higher education and 14-19); Peter Kilfoyle (schools) and Estelle Morris remain unchanged.

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