London, Oct. 24 (Reuters): British Prime Minister Tony Blair today promoted two leading euro supporters out of key government jobs which they had used as platforms to promote membership of the single currency.
In a reshuffle forced by the resignation of his education minister Estelle Morris, Blair also appointed a new minister for Northern Ireland just 10 days after re-imposing direct rule over the province in the wake of a crisis over paramilitary disarmament. Blair was dealt a major blow yesterday when his embattled education secretary resigned after a row over botched exam results and admitted she had not been good enough at the job.
Blair shifted Europe minister Peter Hain to Welsh secretary. The move, technically a promotion to the Cabinet, could leave less scope for the outspoken euro enthusiast to press his case. A government spokeswoman said Hain would remain as Britainís representative to a convention deciding the future of the European Union. But she declined to say whether he would also speak out on the euro.
Charles Clarke, chairman of Blairís ruling Labour Party, took over Morrisí education brief. Like Hain, Clarke had used his position to push the case for euro membership.
But as education secretary charged with improving Britainís overstretched schools, he will find little time for straying from an issue which, along with health services, Blair has put at the heart of his governmentís second term. Blair, who supports joining the euro in principle if membership meets certain economic tests, has set himself a deadline of June next year for deciding whether those tests have been passed. Britons will have the final say in a referendum.
Northern Ireland secretary John Reid took over as Labour Party chairman and was replaced by Welsh secretary Paul Murphy. Blairís spokesman played down the switch in the midst of direct rule over the province, saying Murphy was respected in Northern Ireland.