Tags: Britain's | Brown | Make | Clean | Break | From | Blair

Britain's Brown to Make Clean Break From Blair

Thursday, 28 June 2007 12:00 AM

LONDON -- Prime Minister Gordon Brown named rising star David Miliband on Thursday as Britain's youngest foreign minister in 30 years in a government shake-up designed to make a clean break from the Tony Blair years.

Brown, who is promising change to woo back voters after 10 years of Labour Party rule and draw a line under the unpopular Iraq war, also named loyal colleague Alistair Darling as finance minister in a reshuffle that brought in many new faces.

As a cabinet minister Miliband, 41, voted to support the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 but was widely reported by British media to have been skeptical about the war.

On his first full day in office, there was a stark reminder for Brown of the chaos in Iraq. British forces announced three British troops were killed by a roadside bomb in Basra, taking the number of British deaths in the Iraq war to 156.

Brown took over on Wednesday from Blair, who stepped aside as prime minister to try to boost Labour's chances of winning the next election, due by May 2010 at the latest but expected sooner.

Analysts said the appointment of Darling, 53, signaled no major change in economic policy after Brown's successful decade-long tenure as finance minister, but Miliband's promotion marked a change of style in foreign affairs.

In keeping with his pledge to promote women, Brown appointed Jacqui Smith as Britain's first female Home Secretary (interior minister) and she will face the challenge of preventing any more attacks by home-grown Islamist militants.

The jobs given to Brown allies such as leadership campaign manager, Jack Straw, right-hand man at the Treasury, Ed Balls, and fellow Scot Douglas Alexander underlined the priorities of Brown's policy agenda.

As justice minister Straw, 60, will be charged with getting a parliamentary consensus for constitutional reform and sorting out a prisons overcrowding crisis.

Balls, 40, was named children, schools and families minister, signaling Brown's focus on convincing the electorate he will improve education and stand up for working families.

Many Britons remain unhappy with Britain's public services, even though Blair's government pumped billions of pounds of extra funds into them. Brown gave the health portfolio to Alan Johnson, who was pipped in a vote for Labour Party deputy.

Alexander, 39, who will run the prime minister's general election campaign, became minister for international development. Brown pushed development to the top of the international agenda when Britain held the presidency of the Group of Eight in 2005.

Brown has accepted responsibility for the decision to back the invasion of Iraq but will want to distance his government from Blair's approach, which was deeply unpopular among voters.

"The opportunities and challenges of the modern world require, in my view, a diplomacy that is patient as well as purposeful, which listens as well as leads," said Miliband.

Britain has been drawing down troop numbers in Iraq and now has about 5,500 in the south of the country. While Brown has pledged to respect Britain's commitments in Iraq, there is speculation the withdrawal may accelerate.

In a further nod to Iraq critics, Brown appointed Mark Malloch Brown as minister for Africa, Asia and the United Nations. Malloch Brown, a former U.N. deputy secretary general was highly critical of Britain and America over the conflict.

"Miliband wasn't closely associated with the decisions that were taken in the Iraq war," said David Mepham, head of the international unit at the Institute for Public Policy Research.

"It's an asset when meeting foreign secretaries in other countries in getting people to focus instead on the problem of how to move things forward in Iraq," he said.

Miliband was reportedly skeptical about the decision to go to war in Iraq and, according to media reports, voiced his dismay in cabinet at Blair's reluctance to call for an immediate ceasefire in last year's Lebanon war.

Hilary Benn was appointed environment minister while former pensions minister John Hutton will take responsibility for energy policy in a new business and enterprise ministry.

© reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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LONDON -- Prime Minister Gordon Brown named rising star David Miliband on Thursday as Britain's youngest foreign minister in 30 years in a government shake-up designed to make a clean break from the Tony Blair years. Brown, who is promising change to woo back voters...
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2007-00-28
Thursday, 28 June 2007 12:00 AM
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