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Shy Scotsman shuffles in

THE Government reshuffle saw a reclusive Scot take over from an ebullient Welshman as the minister responsible for lifelong learning.

Dr Kim Howells moves from the Department for Education and Employment to Trade and Industry and is replaced by George Mudie, a low profile old Labour figure, virtually unknown outside Westminster and his adopted home town of Leeds.

Like Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett, George Mudie made his name in local politics. In 1980, at the age of 35, he became the youngest leader of Leeds City Council, and he was a popular successor to Denis Healey in the Leeds East constituency in 1992.

He also shares with his new boss a determination to stand by the state system, sending his two children to local comprehensives, in contrast to the opted-out offspring of some (once) rising Labour figures.

The move from deputy chief whip will be seen as a demotion in the ministerial scheme of things, and his political CV shows little indication of an interest in education, apart from a 1992 speech calling for better skills retraining for the unemployed.

Margaret Hodge's reward for a productive and well-received spell as chair of the education Select Committee is a new post as under secretary for state for employment and equal opportunities.

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