London: New British Prime Minister Gordon Brown unveiled his senior ministerial team on 28 June, a day after taking over from Tony Blair.
His first meeting with his new cabinet, including a loyal and trusted ally as finance minister and the youngest foreign secretary for 30 years, lasted about 50 minutes, but the ministers left Downing Street without comment.
Alistair Darling, 53, succeeds Brown as finance minister, while David Miliband, 41, replaces Margaret Beckett as foreign secretary. He is the youngest person to hold the post since David Owen in 1977.
Miliband, a “Blairite” tipped as a future Labour Party leader, said he was “tremendously honoured and absolutely delighted” to be appointed and pledged to bring leadership and be “patient as well as purposeful.”
Brown’s accent on change is widely seen as an attempt to draw a line under what he calls “celebrity politics,” but also to distance himself from Blair over Iraq.
Some of the appointments, including Miliband, indicate that Brown will shift emphasis in the run-up to Britain’s next general election, which is due by 2010 at the latest.
Miliband, who vowed to use the foreign ministry “to maximum effect” to build a better Britain and world, last year criticised Blair’s position on Israel’s conflict with Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.
Brown also brought in Iraq war critic Mark Malloch Brown, the outspoken former deputy secretary-general of the United Nations, as minister for Africa, Asia and the UN while former junior interior minister John Denham returns to the cabinet as a junior minister in the education ministry.
Denham stood down from his post in order to vote against the 2003 US-led invasion, while Malloch Brown, who was not previously either a member of the upper House of Lords or the lower House of Commons, was appointed as a peer.
As expected, Brown — who has pledged “a new government with new priorities” — packed his senior team with his supporters and sought to create what he has called a “government of all the talents.”
Notable appointments include Jacqui Smith as Britain’s first female interior minister and Baroness Patricia Scotland as the first female, and black, attorney general, the government’s most senior law adviser.
Ed Balls, Brown’s long-standing economics adviser, took up a new role as children, schools and families secretary, while his wife Yvette Cooper continues as housing minister — the first time a husband and wife have been in Cabinet.
And the weekly meetings have their first siblings since Neville and Austen Chamberlain in 1929 when Brown rewarded another key adviser — Miliband’s younger brother, Ed, 37 — with a role at the Cabinet Office.
Among the “Brownites,” Des Browne stayed on as defence secretary and Labour’s new deputy leader and chairwoman Harriet Harman was given another hat to wear as leader of the lower House of Commons.
Brown’s former speechwriter Douglas Alexander was moved from transport to be international development secretary, in anticipation of an expected continuation of Blair’s work in overseas aid and development.
Jack Straw, Blair’s former home and foreign secretary, returned as justice secretary. Jim Murphy, formerly employment minister, was appointed minister for Europe.