Lord Stevens accepts role of adviser

Former North police chief Lord Stevens has accepted a job offer from Gordon Brown, as the new Prime Minister made good his promise to build a "Government of all talents".

Former North police chief Lord Stevens has accepted a job offer from Gordon Brown, as the new Prime Minister made good his promise to build a "Government of all talents".

The Northumbria University chancellor, who lives in Northumberland, last week turned down the offer of a Ministerial post, but yesterday [FRI] was appointed Mr Brown's adviser on international security.

Mr Brown's mission to appoint Ministers and advisers from outside the Labour Party, and beyond the world of politics, also saw Falklands hero Admiral Sir Alan West made security minister in the Home Office, while former CBI director-general Sir Digby Jones was appointed Minister for Trade and Investment.

Labour eyebrows were raised at the appointments of Lord Stevens, who recently turned down an approach from David Cameron to stand as Conservative candidate for London Mayor but is still leading a Tory task force on the creation of a national border police.

Sir Digby was also a surprise announcement, having been a stern critic of Mr Blair's administration during his time at the CBI.

Elsewhere, the post of junior international development minister went to former Treasury aide Shriti Vadera, and leading surgeon Sir Ara Darzi became a health minister.

And Mr Brown recruited two Liberal Democrat peers in advisory roles - Baroness Neuberger working with him on voluntary sector issues and leading lawyer Lord Lester of Herne Hill advising Justice Secretary Jack Straw on constitutional reform.

Party leader Sir Menzies Campbell previously turned down an offer for Lib Dems to serve as ministers in the Brown administration.

Their appointments follow the naming of Sir Mark Malloch Brown, former deputy to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, to a Ministerial post in the Foreign Office.

Mr Brown is expected to set out his proposals for constitutional reform to MPs in his first statement to the House of Commons on Monday.

Shadow home secretary David Davis welcomed Lord Stevens' appointment, saying: "We hope it will lead to a more measured response to the security threats we face."

Further announcements of junior ministerial appointments were expected over the weekend.

Earlier in the day, it emerged that transport minister Gillian Merron has moved to the Cabinet Office after she appeared on the Government frontbench in a Commons debate on opening up Whitehall jobs to foreigners.

Meanwhile, immigration minister Liam Byrne - who was a key member of Mr Brown's campaign team - went on television to announce that he was keeping his existing job.

The new ministers recruited from outside politics will be made peers and take the Labour whip in the House of Lords, but a Downing Street spokesman said it would be a "personal decision" whether they join the party.

Sir Digby Jones made clear he would not join Labour, and would not even disclose if he will back the party at the next General Election.

Tory leader to visit Sedgefield in by-election campaign

Conservative leader David Cameron is to visit the North-East after the party announced its candidate for the Sedgefield by-election.

Former BBC radio presenter Graham Robb has been chosen to try and win the seat which Tony Blair held with a majority of 18,457. Mr Robb, who was a press officer for former Tory leaders John Major and William Hague, has previously fought for the Hartlepool seat and is a Conservative A-list candidate.

His campaign is the first to get off the ground, with both Labour and the Liberal Democrats expected to have announced candidates by Wednesday.

Mr Robb was a leading figure in the `No' campaign during the regional assembly referendum.

Yesterday he said: "I feel very strongly that the Government and the Labour party should be held to account.

"A few years ago Labour's flagship policy for the North, a regional assembly, was rejected in a referendum that cost £10m. Yet today we still have a regional assembly. It is bureaucratic, costly and is actually slowing down our progress."

His campaign will involve a visit from the Conservative leader some time next week.

A spokesman for Sedgefield Council said: "The Sedgefield Constituency Parliamentary by-election will take place on Thursday July 19.

"Electorate wishing to use the option of postal voting, and yet to register for this form of voting, must complete and return the necessary application forms no later than 5pm on July 4.

"The Sedgefield constituency also incorporates areas of District of Easington and Darlington Borough Councils. For electorate residing in these areas, completed postal forms must be returned to the council offices in which they live."

Tony Blair makes heavy work of travelling light

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair showed the strain of quitting office when he had to lug his own bags down a railway platform yesterday.[FRI]

Accompanied by two security officers, the 54-year-old struggled to carry a heavy looking maroon sports bag from his limousine to the 12.01 Darlington to Kings Cross Inter City train.

He boarded the first class carriage and the train set off on time from platform one. And the changeover at the top continued apace as Blair's biography appeared to have been removed from the 10 Downing Street Website.

Browsers who clicked on the link `Tony Blair - Biography' were redirected to the Number 10 homepage with the message: "We are sorry. The page you are looking for cannot be found. It might have been removed, had its name changed, or may be temporarily unavailable.

"Click on this link to return to the www.number-10.gov.uk home page."

On Thursday, a `worldwide removals' van called at Blair's constituency home.

But a spokesman for Stephen Morris Shipping said: "I'd love to tell you but I can't - I'm afraid we've had to sign the Official Secrets Act and so I can't say a thing."

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer