Lammy steps up to HE as Rammell is moved sideways

Tottenham MP promoted while Sion Simon takes over as Skills Minister, reports Rebecca Attwood

October 9, 2008

David Lammy is the new Minister for Higher Education at the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, following Prime Minister Gordon Brown's reshuffle.

The former junior minister for skills has been promoted to take over the higher education brief, replacing Bill Rammell, who held the post for three-and-a-half years.

A former barrister, after becoming the first black Briton to study a masters in law at Harvard Law School in 1997, Mr Lammy became the youngest MP when he won the Tottenham by-election in June 2000 at the age of .

He has since held a number of junior roles in the Government, his first as parliamentary private secretary to Estelle Morris when she was Education Secretary, one year after his election.

Mr Lammy was brought up as one of five children in a single-parent family and won a choral scholarship to The King's School in Peterborough, before studying law at the School of Oriental and African Studies.

In 2004, he said there were many talented youngsters in the black community who had "written off" university by the time they took their GCSEs.

"Universities should be targeting children in inner-city areas as early as primary school," he said.

"A university education is a privilege, but we should be proud that in Britain it is also a right, no matter what your income or class or ethnic background. We need to ensure that our children do not suffer from a poverty of ambition but share the drive and ability to access our top universities."

Mr Rammell moves back to the Foreign Office, where he served as a minister from 2002 to 2005. Sion Simon, former News of the World columnist, was set to be confirmed as Minister for Skills, taking Mr Lammy's previous job.

The controversial Birmingham MP made the headlines recently for creating a spoof of Conservative leader David Cameron's video internet blog, in which Mr Simon sported a baseball cap, called himself "Dave" and offered viewers the chance to sleep with his wife.

He was once described by London Mayor Boris Johnson as a "radiant vision of grinning new Labour complacency", and was a signatory to a letter in 2006 calling for Tony Blair's resignation. In the 1997 General Election campaign, he ran the foreign press department at Labour Party headquarters. Lord Tony Young of Norwood Green, a former Trades Union Congress president, has been confirmed as a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State. His portfolio had not been determined as Times Higher Education went to press, but was likely to include student affairs.

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