More counting for Byers

31st July 1998 at 01:00
DAVID Blunkett's education and employment team saw three out and three in during this week's reshuffle, with Estelle Morris taking over from Stephen Byers as school standards minister.

The Education Secretary was obviously confident enough to leave for his holidays while the changes were made and was presumably pleased the rumours that Harriet Harman, the former Social Security Secretary, would be joining him at employment were unfounded. Ms Harman instead finds herself on the backbenches.

Stephen Byers, after piloting through two major pieces of education legislation bringing in statutory class sizes for infants, education action zones and student tuition fees, has escaped to become Chief Secretary to the Treasury. His famous slip over his seven times table was not held against him.

Mr Byers had been cast as the tough guy of the team. He "named and shamed" failing schools and told local authorities they did not have a God-given right to run schools. Estelle Morris does not have such a sinister pedigree. She is a former teacher and before becoming an education minister worked closely with Mr Blunkett in Opposition.

She is well-liked and seen as a safe pair of hands, but has been overshadowed by her media-sharp predecessor. It will now be her job to carry on the standards agenda and see through the legislation.

Charles Clarke will be aiding Ms Morris at schools, taking over her old brief of the national curriculum, special needs, specialist schools, early years and truancy. Mr Clarke may be a new MP, but he is an experienced politician, with wide contacts, and a reputation as a fixer.

The employment team has seen two losses: Alan Howarth to Culture, Media and Sport and Kim Howells to Trade and Industry. They are replaced by Margaret Hodge, former chair of the education select committee, and George Mudie, ex-deputy chief whip.

Ms Hodge, who proved an energetic chair of the Select Committee, has been appointed employment and equal opportunities minister.

Mr Mudie has emerged from the shadowy world of the whips office to take on Mr Howells's job overseeing lifelong learning.

However, when Mr Blunkett returns from his holidays some fine-tuning of his ministers' responsibilities may be necessary.

Tessa Jowell, from the Department for Health, will oversee Sure Start, the programme for children aged 0 to 3.

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