Richard Caborn today stood down as sports minister after six years in the post, as part of new Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s cabinet reshuffle. No replacement for Caborn has yet been named, but sport – so long overlooked by politicians – effectively gets a second seat at cabinet, with James Purnell named as the new minister for culture, media and sport, while his predecessor, Tessa Jowell, keeps her role as Olympics minister.
Caborn, despite an early reputation for being gaffe-prone, proved himself to be very accessible to sports journalists, regularly returning calls rather than simply foisting the task to someone in his press office. He has been asked by Brown to take on the role of “World Cup ambassador”, charged with the task of ensuring England wins the rights to stage the tournament in 2018.
Jowell’s reward for busily lobbying is to keep the continuity of working towards the London Olympic Games, with the right to attend cabinet meetings, again a move which will prove popular with her friends in the media.
Purnell once worked for the BBC and spent a year after the last election as a junior minister in the culture department.
One of Labour’s rising stars, the 37-year-old Purnell has been the minister for pensions since May 2006.
Before entering parliament in 2001, he worked as a special adviser in Tony Blair’s first government on culture, media, sport and the knowledge economy. Between 1995 and 1997 he worked as the head of corporate planning at the BBC, when John Birt was the director general.
The MP for Stalybridge and Hyde in Greater Manchester, Purnell was educated in France and is a graduate of Balliol College, Oxford. During his time at university he worked as a researcher for Labour’s then shadow employment secretary, Blair.
On his website he lists his interests as film, music, theatre and football. He is said to have an Arsenal season ticket (although cynics might suggest that it is the essential accoutrement for the Islington set).
There will also be a new broadcasting minister under Purnell at the DCMS, with Shaun Woodward promoted to Northern Ireland secretary.
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