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29 June 2007updated 27 Sep 2015 5:44am

A reshuffle that actually works

It's difficult to find fault with Brown's first cabinet - however hard you try

By Martin Bright

I used to work as a film critic believe it or not. My speciality was very bad French films and I could be truly vicious: I liked to use the phrase “pre-digested pap” as often as I could. The trouble was that as soon as I had a good film to review, I didn’t know what to say. I just didn’t have the language.

The same is true in the post-Blair world. I am so used to knocking this government that it’s difficult to remember how to be positive. But I have to say, despite what Simon Hoggart says about the dullness of this Cabinet, this is really pretty impressive.

I’ll just pick up on a couple of reasons why this marks a significant shift away from the Blair era. Firstly, by moving responsibility for the “respect” agenda into the new ministry for children and schools, Brown has effectively neutralised this moronic idea. In private, Ed Balls always thought it was risible and I would be amazed if the word ever passed a minister’s lips again (even Hazel Blears).

The inclusion of John Denham, who resigned over the war has been much remarked on. David Miliband and Sir Mark Malloch Brown at the Foreign Office will hopefully pursue an independent policy.

But for me, there is now a constellation of ministers around the issue of social cohesion, who will deal with my particular area of interest (some would say obsession!) Islamic radicalism. It was essential that Jack Straw did not return to the Home Office or the Foreign Office and Brown has clearly listened to those who warned against this. Hazel Blears is someone who will be able to continue the work done by Ruth Kelly at the Department of Communities and Local Government to reach out to the grassroots rather than relying on the usual suspects. The fact that Kelly remains in the cabinet is also important for this agenda. Ed Miliband at the Cabinet office and David Miliband himself both understand the importance of not “engaging for engagement’s sake” with the respresentatives of political Islam.

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It’s strange feeling optimistic, but I have to admit that is my dominant emotion. I could well be disappointed, but, who knows, this time maybe I won’t be.

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