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Midlands 'mafia' welcome for Byrne.

Byline: By Jonathan Walker Political Editor

Liam Byrne was welcomed as part of a "West Midlands mafia" when he made his debut appearance as Gordon Brown's Cabinet co-ordinator in the Commons.

The MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill answered questions in his new role as head of the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

He is to oversee the co-ordination of Government policy across departments in the new position, which has been dubbed Mr Brown's Cabinet "fixer".

But Mr Byrne was also mocked by Conservatives for failing to make it into the Cabinet himself.

The job he is now doing has previously been a Cabinet position and his predecessor, Ed Miliband, was a full member.

However, when Mr Byrne was promoted last week, he was told he will simply be allowed to attend Cabinet meetings rather than being a member of it.

The MP, previously the Minister responsible for Immigration, now leads a team which includes West Bromwich East MP Tom Watson. He was welcomed to his new role by Conservative MPAndrew MacKay (Bracknell), who briefly represented the now-defunct constituency of Birmingham Stechford in the 1970s.

Mr MacKay, referring to Mr Watson and other West Midlands MPs with ministerial roles, including Home Secretary Jacqui Smith (Redditch), Treasury Minister Ian Pearson (Dudley South) and senior Business Minister Pat McFadden (Lab Wolverhampton South West), who will represent his department in the Commons, said he was delighted to see a "West Midlands mafia" in the Government.

And the theme was taken up by one of Mr Byrne's Cabinet Office ministers, Cardiff West MP Kevin Brennan, who quipped: "It makes a welcome change from the Celtic mafia."

But Conservative spokesman Nick Hurd told Mr Byrne: "May I add my voice of congratulations to the new ministerial team, and indeed commiserate with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster for assuming that grand office at the very moment it is demoted from Cabinet."

Mr Byrne has been appointed to the Pricy Council, meaning he formally becomes the Right Honourable Liam Byrne in the same way as a full member of the Cabinet.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 9, 2008
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