The reshuffle of the Cabinet will come soon

Prime Minister Tony Blair said Tuesday he would reshuffle his senior ministerial team later this week and tried to play down new speculation about a power struggle at the heart of his government. Rumors of a feud between Blair and his Treasury chief Gordon Brown have persisted for years, and political commentators closely watch changes to the Cabinet lineup for signs that the balance of influence is shifting. On Monday, Work and Pensions Secretary Andrew Smith, a key Brown ally, resigned. He said he wanted to devote more time to his family and his constituency. Talk is now rife in political circles that Blair plans to promote his close friend and fellow modernizer Alan Milburn to party chairman. Speaking at his monthly news conference, Blair confirmed the reshuffle would take place later this week. He dismissed talk of a feud with Brown, who is reported to covet the premiership. "The government that I lead, I would say, is the most ideologically united government that I can imagine for a very long time", informs the Seattle Post. According to the Scotsman, the precision-bombing of the Brownites has taken a few years to complete, but as the Cabinet meets tomorrow morning there will be only one member of the original clan: the Chancellor himself. It gets worse. Alan Milburn, Mr Brown’s most powerful and dedicated enemy, may well be back in government by the end of the week - winking at the Chancellor from across the Cabinet table. The dastardly pendulum of luck, which six months ago looked set to sweep the Chancellor to 10 Downing Street, has now swung into reverse. What was looking like a handover of power - Blair to Brown - has now become a duel: Brown v Milburn. The coming reshuffle is about one issue: succession. Mr Blair is still intending to fight a kamikaze campaign over the European Union constitution - to which the British public is implacably hostile. Whether the Prime Minister seriously thinks he can win, or whether it’s an excuse to go down fighting, is secondary to the main point - he’s on the way out. This is the single most important fact in British politics today. If Mr Blair had quit this summer, the Chancellor would have succeeded him: there is no-one else. Now, it seems Mr Blair intends to win the next election (as he will) and then martyr himself over Europe. He’s thinking: what then? In business and politics, strong leadership is too often followed by a vacuum into which previous achievements are sucked. This happened with Margaret Thatcher in the Conservatives and Sir Richard Greenbury at Marks & Spencer. The same danger is facing Mr Blair because so few in his Cabinet really believe in his mission: to roll back the state, and hand control over health and education back to the professionals. Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain said Tuesday he would reshuffle his cabinet by the end of the week. But he declined, at a news conference, to be drawn into speculation about who might be brought into the government. Political analysts said the changes could reflect renewed tensions between Blair and Gordon Brown, the chancellor of the Exchequer, who is widely depicted as the prime minister's main rival within the government. On Monday, Andrew Smith, the minister in charge of pensions who is seen as an ally of Brown, resigned unexpectedly, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family. Analysts speculate that Blair wants to reappoint Alan Milburn, a former health minister who is seen as an opponent of Brown. Milburn resigned last year, citing personal reasons. The reshuffle, which has been expected for several months, comes as politicians position themselves in anticipation of a national election that Blair could call by the middle of next year. Some analysts said the reshuffle would demonstrate the extent of Blair's self-confidence, both within his Labor Party's ranks and in the looming contest with the opposition Conservatives, publishes the International Herald Tribune.

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