HAS John Reid in effect resigned from further ministerial office because he feared he might not be re-appointed by Gordon Brown or because, after nine jobs in ten years, he was, as a ministerial friend put it, “knackered”? Probably the latter.
The sequence of minister for the Armed Forces, Transport, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Labour Party chairman, Leader of the Commons, Health, Defence and Home Office, from 1997 to the present day, is not so much a tribute to Mr Reid's versatility as a reflection on Tony Blair's hamfisted Cabinet-making. If Mr Reid wants to score a round ten jobs he can always add “minister for the BBC Today programme”, a post he filled with vigour and evident enjoyment while Party chairman. Mr Reid's departure with Tony Blair will open up possibilities for Mr Brown to shape a new Cabinet to his liking although it seems odd that the architect of the break-up of the Home Office into two departments which takes place this week will not be around for long enough to see whether his plans actually work.
The change has been rushed through and it will be surprising if there are not “unintended consequences”.
The British media are already beginning the game of assembling Gordon Brown's Cabinet for him. One obvious difficulty is that on the grounds of performance the three leading women members of the present Cabinet should probably be replaced. But would he dare to do that?