Gordon Brown forced to shake up Downing Street 'war room'

Gordon Brown will have to rearrange his Downing Street 'war room' as he puts the final touches to his cabinet reshuffle.

Liam Byrne: former Cabinet Office minister
Liam Byrne: former Cabinet Office minister

The PM has lost two key figures in the Downing Street communications operation - just weeks after his top media handler Damian McBride was forced to stand aside.
 
Earlier this week, the PM saw digital engagement minister Tom Watson step down. This afternoon, it emerged that Cabinet Office minister Liam Byrne was also moving on, after the PM judged Byrne the best person to take over from Yvette Cooper as chief secretary to the Treasury.
 
Until this week, Watson sat feet away from Brown in the open-plan war room at 12 Downing Street. He is a close ally of Brown and was recently linked to the Smeargate scandal, which claimed the scalp of McBride. However, any smoking gun linking Watson to McBride is yet to emerge. A Downing Street insider said: ‘Gordon will miss him. He was never a minister in any real sense; the Cabinet Office role was just a fig leaf for his work as a political hatchet man.’
 
Byrne has overseen government communications but has not been involved in day-to-day news management at Downing Street. When McBride took a new role last year, Downing Street sources briefed that he would work with Byrne on long-term comms strategy. The Downing Street source told PRWeek that people in government communications would be ‘relieved to see the back of Liam Byrne’. The source added: ‘His enthusiasm for white boards, management-speak and endless meetings drove everybody round the twist.’
 
Byrne’s Cabinet Office brief will be taken over by Olympics minister Tessa Jowell. Watson’s replacement is yet-to-be announced.

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