Reshuffled pack

31st July 1998 at 01:00
In preparing his reshuffle, Tony Blair ordered two reports on each of his front-bench team: one on their competence as ministers; the other on their political skills. Thus Stephen Byers, notorious for "naming and shaming" failing schools, but effective in steering Labour's flagship schools Bill through the Commons, scored high marks on both counts. He is rewarded with a seat in Cabinet.

His replacement by his former junior, Estelle Morris, puts an ex-teacher and champion of comprehensives in the key position of school standards minister. Her promotion is particularly welcome. Highly rated for her experience and competence, there is nevertheless a danger she will come under pressure to show that, like Byers, she too has a radical cutting edge. We hope this does not happen. Common sense is more important than populism and political tricks.

With the arrival of Charles Clarke, former head of Neil Kinnock's office, as education junior minister, and Margaret Hodge, energetic chair of the Commons education select committee and friend of Mr Blair, as employment minister, David Blunkett's new team is not short of political skills. We must wait to see whether they are put to good use.

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