The Olympics

The Olympics


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Friday, June 29, 2007

Who's In Charge?

There is confusion at the centre of government today, following new Prime Minister Gordon Brown's changes to cabinet. Specifically the confusion centres on the changes made to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport which is handling the London Olympics 2012.

Tessa Jowell was retained as Olympics minister. However, she lost her job as secretary of state for culture.

Jowell will oversee the Government Olympic Executive (GOE), the DCMS unit responsible for liaising with the games. Jowell will continue to attend Cabinet and report directly to the prime minister, but she will no longer have the seniority of a secretary of state. She will remain chair of the Olympic Board and be answerable to parliament.

Her replacement as culture secretary is James Purnell. In a further twist of the knife by Brown, that signals his displeasure with Jowell, it should be noted that Purnell was a junior minister under Jowell in 2005.

The nature of the muddled re-organisation means that Purnell, despite in theory being Jowell's boss, will have no direct influence over the Olympics.

Jowell put a brave face on her demotion, saying:

"I'm really, really pleased to be continuing as Olympics minister.

It is a cause that I am absolutely passionate about and I fundamentally believe in the power of the games to improve people's lives. There is no question that this is a confusion or a muddle.

I have long said that the Olympics needs enhanced ministerial capacity and Gordon has asked me to do that. The point of placing it in the Cabinet Office is that it reports directly to him and underlines the importance he attaches to it. In functional terms nothing has changed

By making these changes, Brown has signalled that he does not think that Jowell was up to the Job of running the department. However, by leaving her in charge of the Olympics and appointing her junior to her old position he has ensured that the organisation of the London Olympics will be muddled, confused and lacking clarity of leadership.

In short, it is a recipe for disaster.

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