Monday, 8 September 2008

Building on Brown's Birmingham Awayday

Judging by the lunchtime news coverage, today's Cabinet awayday in Birmingham wasn't a bad idea. Not least because it reduced the impact of the increasingly mad advice on taxation and public sector pay from the TUC in Brighton. The Birmingham cabinet meeting - and the associated local ministerial visits - did at least convey a sense of purpose after a pretty woeful week; it even suggested that the Downing Street strategists might have got their act together. Gordon Brown's briefings of today's papers with his slightly more personal take on the challenges facing Britain, and his capacity to deal with them, was also a big advance.

But we do need to hear from more cabinet ministers in longer interviews, giving a sense that they are on top of things. Ed Balls did his best yesterday, but where are his colleagues? One big advantage enjoyed by Tony Blair in his first term was the sense that he had an experienced team of heavy hitters. Gordon Brown undoubtedly has a talented team of ministers, but he needs more experienced figures reassuring the public through these difficult times (and, for the moment, best keep Alastair Darling away from interviewers). That is the main reason why an early reshuffle would make sense, both to give someone like Alan Johnson a proper deputy PM's role and to bring back figures like Margaret Beckett, David Blunkett or John Reid who can talk to the public in plain terms.

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