Rising stars in a resurgent ministry

15th June 2001 at 01:00
The Department for Education used to be for has-beens - but Labour has changed all that. Biddy Passmore reports on the incoming talent.

Education was once considered something of a political graveyard (from which Margaret Thatcher, exceptionally, rose again). But now that it tops the political agenda, it has become a nursery of ministerial talent, attracting bright new ministers and sending those who leave on to higher things.

Estelle Morris, promoted to the top job, takes over a pared-down department which has lost its employment responsibilities to the Department for Work and Pensions.

Both her deputies, Stephen Timms and Margaret Hodge, the two new ministers of state at the renamed Department for Education and Skills, are former leaders of London councils with impressive political and parliamentary skills.

And three junior ministers - keen Blairite and former social services chairman Ivan Lewis, employment rights campaigner and PR expert John Healey, and community work specialist Cathy Ashton - will add energy and experience to the team.

Three ne Cabinet recruits are from the old Department for Education and Employment: Ms Morris herself; Charles Clarke, a former minister of state at the department, who becomes Labour party chairman and minister without portfolio; and Tessa Jowell, former minister of state for employment, who takes charge of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Ms Jowell will oversee libraries, museums and the Government's sports strategy.

Two other former ministers at the old DFEE are now in the Cabinet: Andrew Smith, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and Stephen Byers, now responsible for transport, local government and the regions.

Former DFEE minister Baroness Blackstone, who had been responsible for higher education, moves as minister of state to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Jacqui Smith, former schools minister, is promoted to become minister of state for health.

Malcolm Wicks, former minister for lifelong learning, moves across to the Department for Work and Pensions and Michael Wills, former IT minister, moves to the Lord Chancellor's department.

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