Starmer appoints two figures from Blair and Brown era as ministers

Composite image of Douglas Alexander and Jacqui Smith
[Getty Images]

Two former cabinet ministers who served under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have been given junior ministerial roles by Sir Keir Starmer.

Former home secretary Jacqui Smith will join the House of Lords to become higher education minister, Downing Street said.

While Douglas Alexander, who held several cabinet roles in the last Labour government, is now a business minister after returning as an MP for the first time since losing his seat in 2015.

The new posts are part of a small number of new ministerial appointments made by the prime minister on his first full day in office.

Ellie Reeves, the sister of Chancellor Rachel Reeves, becomes minister without portfolio.

Sir Keir has also appointed Ms Reeves - who served as co-director of Labour's election campaign - as Labour Party chair.

In a social media post, Ms Reeves said she was "delighted" at her appointment.

Former Mayor of South Yorkshire and soldier Dan Jarvis joins the Home Office as a minister.

​Jim McMahon and Matthew Pennycook, who both have held roles in Sir Keir's shadow government, become ministers in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

Mr Pennycook said his appointment was a "real honour".

"Tackling the housing crisis and boosting economic growth is integral to national renewal," he said.

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Ms Smith - who is not an MP - will get a life peerage in order to re-enter government.

She returns as education minister, a brief she had previously held 25 years ago, under Tony Blair.

She went on to hold several ministerial roles, before rising to be the first female home secretary. She resigned in 2009 due to a series of expenses scandals.

The Standards Commissioner found she breached Commons rules by designating her sister's London house as her main residence and claiming expenses on her Redditch home.

Ms Smith also admitted to mistakenly claiming expenses for two pornographic films viewed by her husband while she was away.

Media reports revealed she had also claimed a flat-screen TV and scatter cushions on expenses.

She stepped down, blaming family pressures and claiming gender bias in the scrutiny of her expenses.

After losing her seat to Karen Lumley of the Conservative Party in the 2010 election Ms Smith competed on Strictly Come Dancing and co-hosted a political podcast with Conservative broadcaster Iain Dale.

She previously chaired the University Hospitals Birmingham trust and since 2021 has been chair of Barts health trust in London - two of the NHS’s biggest care providers.

After helping co-ordinate Labour's successful election campaign in 2001, Mr Alexander was made a junior minister in Mr Blair's government, serving in various roles before being made both transport secretary and Scottish secretary in 2006.

While an MP he repaid more than £12,000 he had claimed from Parliament during the expenses scandal.

While serving as shadow foreign secretary, Mr Alexander was defeated by the SNP's Mhairi Black at the 2015 general election, overturning his 16,000-vote majority.

After leaving parliament he joined Harvard and New York University as a professor and became an adviser to U2 front man Bono.

Mr Alexander chaired Unicef UK but resigned in 2020 following bullying allegations that he was later cleared of.

In 2023, it was announced he was Labour's candidate for East Lothian, one of the Labour Party's top target seats in Scotland.

They join several other ex-cabinet members from the last Labour government in Sir Keir's new top team, including Yvette Cooper, Hilary Benn and Ed Miliband.

A Labour source has also confirmed to the BBC that the new Health Secretary, Wes Streeting, has been having conversations with Alan Milburn about taking a role in the government.

Mr Milburn was Mr Blair’s health secretary during the latter part of his first term.