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Tuesday, June 15, 1999 Published at 09:37 GMT 10:37 UK

UK Politics

Hague looks to fresh faces

Peter Lilley's "dump Thatcherism" speech got him sacked

Conservative leader William Hague has sacked his deputy Peter Lilley in a radical reshuffle of his shadow cabinet.

The BBC's Robin Oakley: Mr Hague has moved fast to consolidate his authority
He also promoted Ann Widdecombe and John Maples to become shadow home secretary and shadow foreign secretary respectively, while Theresa May takes over education and employment.

[ image:  ]
Other major shifts include John Redwood, who moves from trade and industry to environment and transport.

Liam Fox, the party's constitutional affairs spokesman, will replace Miss Widdecombe at health.

Another woman in the line-up is Angela Browning, who replaces Mr Redwood shadowing the trade secretary. She returns to the frontbench a year after resigning to look after her adult son who suffers from autism.

The move comes the day after the Tories scored overwhelming success in the European election.

Ann Widdecombe: We will go from strength to strength
Knives had been out for Mr Lilley within his own party since he made a speech intended to promote compassionate Conservatism, but interpreted as an attempt to dump Thatcherism.

A party spokesman said Mr Hague would take over the policy review the deputy leader had headed.

[ image: Ann Widdecombe: Promoted to shadow home secretary]
Ann Widdecombe: Promoted to shadow home secretary
"One of the aspects of this reshuffle is that Mr Hague wants to take direct personal responsibility for the policy review," he said.

"He feels that the clarity and the conviction he and the party were able to bring to the European elections campaign needs to be expanded into other areas of policy and he is very keen to see that happening in the coming months."

Mr Hague will be joined in shaping future Tory policy by Andrew Lansley, who led the Euro campaign and is promoted to a new role within the shadow cabinet.

Rising star

The shadow cabinet's rising star, Miss Widdecombe, denied the re-shuffle marked a shift to the right. She said: "Every single member of the shadow cabinet believes whole-heartedly that we should be in Europe and not run by Europe.

"The party is and always has been both its right and its left."

[ image: William Hague: Changing faces around the table]
William Hague: Changing faces around the table
Miss Widdecombe refused to be drawn on whether Mr Lilley's political career was now over, and said comebacks are always possible.

"The day and the hour you start talking about new faces that means that some room has to be made. I don't think we need to speculate on the whys and the wherefores," she said.

The former deputy leader's problems began when he chose to question the dominance of the laissez faire approach in Conservative thinking.

In April, Mr Lilley challenged the assumption the Tories always favoured market solutions.

"Conservatism is not, never has been and never will be solely about free markets," he said.

Mr Hague announced no replacement for Mr Lilley, saying instead he had also decided to abolish the job.

Senior resignations

The decision by three senior members of the Tory team to stand down had made the reshuffle necessary.

But victory in the Euro poll afforded the party's leader the freedom to make major changes.

[ image: Tories are sticking with backing the pound]
Tories are sticking with backing the pound
Shadow Home Secretary Sir Norman Fowler, Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Howard and Gillian Shephard, the party's spokesman on the environment, transport and the regions, had all announced their desire to leave the Tory frontbench.

But - following the emphasis on backing the pound in the European election campaign - previously senior Europhiles such as Ken Clarke and Michael Heseltine will not be coming back.

The strategy brought the party electoral success. It doubled its Euro-MPs, from 18 to 36.

The argument employed by Prime Minister Tony Blair is that shifting towards a harder Eurosceptic line may benefit the Tories now but will cost them further down the line.

Former Europe Minister David Davis advises William Hague to follow his instincts
Mr Hague instead insists his party has found an issue it has the same stance on as the majority of people and expects that to continue.

"We spoke up for the people of this country who do want to be in Europe, but not run by Europe," he said.

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