18 December 2004


There is no need to shed tears over David Blunkett's departure from the cabinet, though the manner of his going was nasty: his replacement by Charles Clarke at the Home Office should be a matter for widespread rejoicing for civil libertarians. Despite his reputation as a bruiser, Clarke is a reasonable man and (contrary to Blunkett's spleen-venting to Stephen Pollard) highly competent: he had the education brief well under control and will be missed as education secretary, particularly in higher education. Don't expect anything spectacular on ID cards — on which I must admit I'm completely agnostic even though I'm a libertarian — but the difference in tone will be marked from the start.

Ruth Kelly as education secretary is daring but I like it: she might be a Catholic and not well loved by the femintern, but she appears to be competent and is at least open to argument. I'm also pleased that Stephen Twigg and David Miliband have been promoted. Both of them are young, hostile to the traditionalist back-to-1945 crew, and the Blair administration needs rejuvenation. They all need to do the business, but at least I have some hope.

Next step? The two old-timers at the top right now who are obviously well past sell-by are Jack Straw and John Prescott - 1970s Eurosceptics and yesterday's men. If he's serious about the referendum on the European constitution, Blair would do well to shaft the pair of them sooner rather than later. C'mon . . .

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