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Day of Westminster intrigue sees three main parties shuffle their packs
ED Miliband ruthlessly demoted key Blairite Shadow Cabinet members on a day when all three major Westminster parties carried out major reshuffles.
The Labour leader ejected Liam Byrne (Work and Pensions), Stephen Twigg (Education) and Jim Murphy (Defence) – the first two leaving the top table altogether.
On a day of Westminster intrigue, a Conservative reshuffle saw George Osborne tighten his grip on the Government, with the promotion of a clutch of allies.
And eyebrows were raised when Norman Baker - a Liberal Democrat who wrote a book claiming the Iraq War scientist Dr David Kelly was murdered - was handed a Home Office brief.
The prime minister’s spokesman acknowledged he could have blocked the appointment of Mr Baker, but insisted: “He’s an experienced minister.”
But attention focused on Mr Miliband’s decision to risk accusations of a purge of leading Blairites. Only Mr Murphy (International development) remains in the Shadow Cabinet.
Many Conservatives were quick to point out that powerful Unite union boss Len McCluskey had called for the trio to be sacked back in the summer.
Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, tweeted: “Congratulations to Len McCluskey for his successful reshuffle of the Labour front bench.”
But Mr Miliband’s aides insisted he had moved to bring in “the brightest and most talented people from the 2010 intake”
They included Rachel Reeves, the 34-year-old Shadow Treasury Chief Secretary, who was handed the crucial Work and Pensions brief, where Mr Byrne’s belligerent tone made him enemies.
There was also speculation that shifting Maria Eagle from transport signalled a further weakening of Labour support for HS2, although the aide insisted: “The position remains unchanged.”
On the Tory side, the Chancellor’s allies Sajid Javid (the new Treasury financial secretary). Matt Hancock (skills and enterprise) and Gregg Hands (deputy chief whip) were all rewarded.
Scarborough and Whitby MP Robert Goodwill was promoted to junior transport minister, although it was unclear whether he would be responsible for high-speed rail.
But County Durham-born Mark Hoban was sacked as work minister, making way for ex-TV presenter Esther McVey, one of a number of women promoted.
And the other North-East-born Conservative minister – Middlesbrough’s Greg Clarke – was moved from the Treasury to the Cabinet Office, while retaining responsibility for cities.
Fiona Syms, the wife of sacked whip Robert Syms, took to Twitter to protest, tweeting: “PM just fired father of my kids over the phone. Gave up chairmanship of a cttee to be a whip, worked hard and was widely acknowledged.”
Meanwhile, Nick Clegg axed Scottish Secretary Michael Moore, less than one year before the Scottish independence referendum he was leading the fight to defeat.
And he also wielded the knife to remove Jeremy Browne from the Home Office, a high-flyer who appeared to have paid the price for being too close to the Tories.
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