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Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell
Jowell 'lives up to soundbite'
Tessa Jowell has spent the last four years telling us how passionate she is about the Olympics. Now she has lived up to the soundbite
by Adrian Warner
BBC London 2012 Olympics Correspondent
Other ministers might have walked away from Number 10 in a huff after being replaced in her Cabinet post as Culture Secretary by a man 22-years her junior and offered just a part of the portfolio as Olympics Minister.
But the 59-year-old Jowell haggled with Gordon Brown's team for two hours and left Downing Street with the job of Minister for both the Olympics and London and a direct reporting line to Gordon Brown.
Although her team of Olympic staff will stay at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport near Trafalgar Square, Jowell will work out of the Cabinet office in Whitehall and not have to answer to her 37-year-old successor James Purnell, who, interestingly, did not want London to even bid for the Games.
It looks like a Whitehall muddle on the surface and Conservatives have described it as "chaotic and unwieldy solution". But Jowell has invested so much time and energy into the Olympic project that insiders believe she will make it work.
The Dulwich MP, one of the strongest allies of Tony Blair, had already been spending most of her time in the last few months on the Olympics in a clear bid to persuade the Prime Minister to keep her in her post.
It would have been particularly tough for her if the prestigious Olympic brief had been handed over to Purnell. In January 2003 - a crucial moment when Jowell was trying to persuade a sceptical Cabinet that London should launch a bid - Purnell rubbished the idea in an article in the Times.
He wrote: "It would be the wrong priority for London, the wrong priority for British sport and unfair to the rest of the country."
He also said that the Olympics would not address Britain's main sporting problem of participation - the concept which, ironically, formed the centrepiece of the bid.
Purnell's brief will cover sport and the funding of both elite and grassroots sport and he will now be working on making sure the Games do have a long-term legacy for both the performance of GB teams and for participation.
But it is Jowell who faces the real pressure to make sure the Games are delivered on time and to the £10 billion budget.
There is no doubt that Brown will not hesitate to remove her from office if there are major problems and it is not inconceivable that Purnell could still get his hands on the Olympics in the next few years.
But the London MP has two major advantages. Firstly she already knows her way around the complex jungle of the International Olympic Committee. Given that its key players are scattered around the world, it would have taken any new minister at least two years to have got up to speed.
Secondly, Jowell's good relations with London Mayor Ken Livingstone could be crucial with the construction of the venues due to start soon.
The second factor probably played a more important role than than the first. Brown needs somebody to keep the sometimes controversial Livingstone onside in both the Olympics and London matters.
Despite their political differences, Livingstone had a very good relationship with Blair. Even when he was out of the Labour Party, the Mayor was sneaked into the back of 10 Downing Streets for frank, face-to-face discussions with the former PM who was always keen to listen to his views.
Brown needs to appeal to English voters and the last thing he wants is public rows with the London Mayor.
In that respect Jowell has kept her job for her political skills as well as for her Olympic knowledge.
last updated: 19/05/2008 at 16:07
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