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Last Updated: Monday, 10 November, 2003, 22:43 GMT
Howard unveils his top team
The new shadow cabinet
The new shadow cabinet have taken their places
Conservative leader Michael Howard has revealed the team he wants to lead the Tories into the next general election.

Big winners in the reshuffle are new shadow home secretary David Davis and shadow chancellor Oliver Letwin.

The shadow cabinet is nearly halved in size to 12, with some members shadowing two of Tony Blair's ministers.

Former leaders John Major, Iain Duncan Smith and William Hague, as well as former chancellor Ken Clarke, are on a new panel to advise the leadership.

This council of elders will also speak "from time to time" from the party's front bench.

Casualties

Ex-chairman Theresa May gets transport and the environment, Tim Yeo health and education while Liam Fox and Lord Saatchi share the job of chairman.

David Curry MP, a key ally of Mr Clarke, has been named as Tory local government spokesman, while David Willetts is in charge of policy co-ordination.

David Maclean - who stood down as chief whip after Iain Duncan Smith was ousted - has been reappointed.

NEW SHADOW CABINET
Shadow chancellor - Oliver Letwin
Home affairs - David Davis
Health and education - Tim Yeo
Transport and environment - Theresa May
Local government secretary - David Curry
Joint chairmen - Liam Fox and Lord Saatchi
Chief whip - David Maclean
Shadow Lords leader - Lord Strathclyde
Shadow foreign secretary and deputy leader - Michael Ancram
Head of policy co-ordination - David Willetts

Michael Ancram is also staying as shadow foreign secretary and deputy leader, with Lord Strathclyde remaining Tory leader in the Lords.

Among the casualties of the reshuffle are right-winger Eric Forth, who has been dropped as shadow leader of the Commons - a post which does not appear in the shadow cabinet.

Caroline Spelman also drops out of the top team, but becomes shadow environment secretary and shadow minister for women under Mrs May.

Of the junior posts, those promoted include Nicholas Soames as defence secretary, John Bercow as shadow international development secretary and Alan Duncan as shadow constitutional affairs secretary.

James Arbuthnot becomes shadow trade secretary, Julie Kirkbride is shadow culture secretary.

We are back in the big game of politics
Liam Fox
New co-chairman

Explaining the changes, Mr Howard said: "This shadow team is a radical departure from past practice.

"The role of Opposition is very different from the role of government. There is therefore no reason for the Opposition to mirror the structure of government."

He said the new advisory council demonstrated his determination to use the "full array of talent" inside the party.

"This team extends well beyond the shadow cabinet," he added.

The Tory chairman role has been split, with Lord Saatchi focusing on making Conservative Central Office a "premier political machine" once again.

Dr Fox will instead be the public face of party headquarters, taking charge of campaigning, policy and media issues.

When Michael asked me to take on this job my immediate reaction was 'fantastic!'
Lord Saatchi

Tory big-hitter Mr Clarke told Channel 4 News the new "balanced cabinet" represented a "sensible consensus across the party".

He applauded the slimmed-down look, saying: "You don't need all those ministers in a shadow cabinet.

"The need is to have some clear idea of what you are doing and how you are going to run public services."

Mr Yeo, taking on the huge joint brief of education and health, said the shift would make the shadow cabinet able to react much more quickly to events, especially as the body would meet every day.

'Wrong priorities

Labour chairman Ian McCartney accused Mr Howard of downgrading the health and education portfolios.

That reflected a desire to cut public services and force families to pay for their healthcare, he claimed.

"While it takes two shadow cabinet members to run a declining Tory Party, apparently it takes only one to deal with the whole of the NHS and the schools system," added Mr McCartney.

That critique was echoed by Liberal Democrat chairman Matthew Taylor.

"Michael Howard has appointed the same old faces to promote the same old faded and unpopular policies, redirecting NHS and education funds towards subsidising those able to afford private treatment and private education," he said.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Mark Mardell
"It is a streamlined team preparing not for government but to cause Labour maximum damage"


Joint Tory Party Chairman Liam Fox MP
"The party is more unified than it has been in a decade"



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