Opposition to prime minister Blair hardened yesterday in the wake of his final ministerial appointments.
Opponents have been especially infuriated at the appointment of one of Blair’s policy advisors, Andrew Adonis, as schools minister.
Adonis, who is said to be the driving force behind top-up fees privately-run City Academies and foundation schools, has been made a peer in order to take up the job.
Labour MP for Medway, Bob Marshall-Andrews, told News Line yesterday Adonis had been ‘parachuted in’.
He said: ‘An appointment like this is a calculatedly provocative act which can only worsen relations between the prime minister and the Parliamentary Labour Party.’
Lecturers’ union NATFHE general secretary Paul Mackney told News Line: ‘Adonis may change as a minister but he has been the advisory source of many of the elitist and privatising “education” policies coming from Downing Street, e.g. private skills academies and top-up fees.’
Mackney added that the union had hoped for a change from ‘initiatives spun from the back of an envelope into the headlines’ by Adonis.
The Liberal Democrats’ education spokesman Phil Willis described giving Adonis the job as the ‘most appalling appointment’ of an ‘unelected crony’.
Even education secretary Ruth Kelly is said to have objected to Adonis getting a job in her department.
Other appointments include former immigration minister Beverley Hughes who was forced to quit last year – over ‘unwittingly’ misleading people over her knowledge of lax visa checks on Romanian and Bulgarian applicants.
She has been appointed children’s minister.
Hughes replaces Margaret Hodge who is to become minister for work.
Blair has appointed Lord Drayson – who made a fortune in the pharmaceuticals industry and has given millions to Labour – as a junior minister in the Ministry of Defence.
Drayson was made a peer in 2004 after being cleared of any dubious practice after he had been awarded a £20 million contract to provide smallpox vaccine, shortly after giving £550,000 to the Labour Party.
In other moves, Tory defector Shaun Woodward has replaced John Spellar as Northern Ireland minister while Mike O’Brien takes over from Brown supporter Harriet Harman as solicitor general. Harman has been moved to the Department of Constitutional Affairs.
Lord Hunt, a health minister who quit over the Iraq war, is being given a job in the Department for Work and Pensions.
Yvette Cooper – the wife of former advisor to Chancellor Brown, Ed Balls – has been promoted to minister for housing but there was no job for her husband.
Meanwhile, the Campaign Group of Labour MPs has urged Blair not to attempt to gag critics at the Parliamentary Labour Party’s meeting this afternoon.
Campaign Group Chair John McDonnell said yesterday: ‘We are insisting that unlike other PLP meetings there must be no barracking and intimidation of Labour MPs who will be telling the Prime Minister some unpalatable truths about New Labour policies heard on the doorsteps of the election campaign.
‘With such a reduced majority the only way forward for a successful third term is by re-establishing consensual politics within the PLP and the Labour Party overall.’
John Austin MP said: ‘We must have an honest, open and adult report back and analysis of the doorstep response in the election.’