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Monday, June 1, 1998 Published at 11:34 GMT 12:34 UK

UK Politics: News

Hague reshuffles shadow cabinet

Ann Widdecombe on her way into Conservative Central Office

William Hague has completed a comprehensive reshuffle of the shadow cabinet.

The key changes see Ann Widdecombe become the new shadow health secretary; Francis Maude taking over the job of shadow chancellor from Peter Lilley, who becomes the new Deputy Leader, and John Maples moving to defence.

Guto Harri speaks to William Hague "Big changes and new faces"
Mr Lilley's change of role is being seen as a promotion. He will now be in charge of overseeing a wide-ranging review of Tory policy.

BBC News online's Nick Assinder says: "In a move clearly aimed at directing Peter Lilley's talents in a more effective direction, he will be responsible for spearheading Mr Hague's root and branch policy reforms."

Other changes see David Willetts promoted from spokesman for employment to shadow secretary for education and employment; Gary Streeter, formerly spokesman on Europe, takes over from Stephen Dorrell at international development; Liam Fox becomes the constitutional affairs spokesman; and Peter Ainsworth is the shadow secretary for culture media and sport.

[ image: Peter Lilley has moved up to a key policy role]
Peter Lilley has moved up to a key policy role
Michael Howard will stay as shadow foreign secretary, and Cecil Parkinson will remain as chairman of the Conservative Party. Michael Ancram, formerly spokesman for constitutional affairs, is now Lord Parkinson's deputy with the expectation that he will eventually succeed his new boss.

Norman Fowler is the new shadow secretary of state for home affairs and Gillian Shephard becomes John Prescott's opposite number as shadow secretary of state for the environment, transport and the regions. Sir George Young takes on Mrs Shephard's former job as shadow leader of the Commons.

Three men have left the shadow cabinet: Brian Mawhinney (home affairs) and Stephen Dorrell (education) both asked to step down, but Alastair Goodlad (formerly the shadow secretary of state for international development) has been removed after what is thought to have been less than impressive performances at the despatch box.

An effective campaigner

Ms Widdecombe was the outspoken Home Office minister in the last Tory government, who once described the then home secretary, Michael Howard, as having "something of the night" about him. In opposition Ms Widdecombe has proved herself to be a formidable backbencher.

"Ann Widdecombe has been one of the most effective backbenchers in putting the Labour government on the spot.

"She will be in the forefront of William Hague's campaign to start putting pressure on a government with a massive majority and to target what he claims are Labour's broken pledges," says Nick Assinder.

[ image: Francis Maude steps up to do battle with Gordon Brown]
Francis Maude steps up to do battle with Gordon Brown
The inside line...

Francis Maude was until the reshuffle, the shadow secretary of state for culture, media and sport. He is a friend and supporter of Mr Hague and a strong euro-sceptic.

Nick Assinder says: "Francis Maude has clearly been brought in to beef up attacks on Chancellor Gordon Brown which it is believed Peter Lilley had not been seen to be doing as effectively as William Hague had hoped.

"Mr Maude is a euro-sceptic right-winger who will adopt a much more combative approach to the Chancellor."

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