Thursday, 28 June 2007

Brown's cabinet shuffle

The new British prime minister, Gordon Brown, has named his cabinet today. The major changes include two different education secretaries, no deputy PM, and a mix of old and new people.

The commons leader is Harriet Harman, after being elected on 24 June to the position of deputy Labour Party leader; Alistair Darling is chancellor; the fairly young David Miliband will serve as foreign secretary (previously he was the environment minister); Jacqui Smith as home secretary; Alan Johnston for health (previously education); Jack Straw for justice (previously Commons leader; Hilary Benn for environment (previously development); and Des Browne will continue his job as defense minister in addition to a new role leading the Scotland office. There are a total of 22 in Brown's Cabinet.

This is a pretty major revamp, although some, including the fussy Liberal Democrats, have stated they view this as not enough change.

Miliband is not as supportive of Israel and America as Blair was; he also wants strong action to be taken on the issue of climate change. In addition, might his family's background play a role in how he serves in the Foreign Office?

David Miliband's Jewish background will be noted particularly in the Middle East.

Israel will welcome this - but equally it allows him the freedom to criticise Israel, as he has done, without being accused of anti-Semitism.

The biggest issue facing him will be Iraq, with three British soldiers killed there on the day of his appointment.

He is reckoned to be in favour of getting British troops out as soon as possible, consistent with Gordon Brown's declared policy of withdrawing when conditions allow.

Diplomats are wondering whether, as foreign secretary, he will become a blogger - recording his thoughts in an online weblog - as he was in the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

I liked the fact that he blogged. When officials not only show their human side but allow their constituents and others to chime in on their policy-related opinions, it assists the transparency and flow of a democracy. It also allows statements and announcements at a less official level than, say, press releases. Policymakers' blogging creates a more open, two-way line of communication between public and government. Miliband got much attention — both positive and negative — for his 'eDemocracy'.

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