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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 December 2007, 17:38 GMT
What to make of Clegg reshuffle?
By Gary O'Donoghue
Political correspondent, BBC News

This was no night of the long knives.

Nick Clegg
Mr Clegg has given half of his MPs frontbench roles

In fact new Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has jettisoned just two members of Sir Menzies Campbell's shadow cabinet, Andrew Stunnell and Paul Holmes.

But there are a number of promotions, particularly for the younger members of the party.

So Danny Alexander not only stays as shadow work and pensions secretary, but also becomes chief of staff to the leader and chair of the manifesto group.

Similarly, the 29-year-old Julia Goldsworthy moves to become shadow secretary of state for communities and local government.

Political necessity

The key environment brief - which has an even higher profile for the Lib Dems than the other parties, given their traditional championing of green issues - goes to a notable left winger, Steve Webb, who supported Mr Clegg for the leadership.

Mr Clegg's rival for the leadership Chris Huhne - who missed out on the top job by just 511 votes - is moved from environment to home affairs.

This undoubtedly counts as a promotion - but it may also have been a political necessity given Mr Clegg's criticism during the leadership campaign of how the party had sold its environmental policies.

Mr Huhne may also find himself with less room for radical, left wing thinking as home affairs spokesman - a role watched closely by the other parties for signs the Lib Dems are going "soft" on crime or terrorism.

There is no permanent frontbench job for former leader Charles Kennedy, though he will speak for the party on Europe - keeping one of the party's most recognisable and popular figures in the public eye.

Sir Menzies Campbell will conduct a review of Britain's military capabilities.

Bigger team

Vince Cable, who impressed many when he stepped in as acting leader after Sir Menzies' surprise departure, stays as Treasury spokesman.

Given his assured handling of the Northern Rock affair - he has been warning about spiralling personal debt for many years - it would not have made sense to move him.

Ed Davey - who some expected to mount a bid for the leadership before he threw his weight behind Mr Clegg - takes over the foreign affairs brief.

Norman Baker returns to frontline duties - after taking time out to write a book on the death of government weapons scientist David Kelly - in the transport brief, where he will no doubt apply his forensic skills to embarrassing the government over issues such as road pricing and airport expansion.

Mr Clegg has also expanded the size of his front bench team by two, taking it to 30 MPs - about half of the entire Parliamentary party.

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