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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 December 2005, 17:00 GMT
Cameron forges fresh team
Analysis
By Nick Assinder
Political Correspondent, BBC News website

It was never going to be easy for David Cameron to forge a frontbench team as young - and "fresh" - as he appears himself.

David Cameron
Mr Cameron has attempted to give a fresh look to his team

Neither was it going to be straightforward to please all the former rival leadership contenders and their supporters.

So there was always the risk his new shadow cabinet would end up looking like the same old row of ducks lined up in a different order.

And there was the danger he could offend one camp or another, either by design or default, and risk fresh splits at some point in the future.

But the new Tory leader has attempted to balance all the competing interests , while at the same time giving a relatively fresh sheen to a top team that still contains some of the older faces and avoided radical reshaping.

And, with the possible exception of old stager Sir Malcolm Rifkind's, he appears to have done it without spilling much blood or creating any new enemies on the back benches.

Labour enemies

He has given jobs to members of his leadership rivals' teams and attempted to live up to his promise of boosting the presence of women, giving rising star Theresa Villiers a key treasury post.

Even Sir Malcolm, who had insisted he wanted to be shadow foreign secretary or nothing - and ended up with nothing - has pledged, and can be expected to give, his full support to his leader.

Nobody sees him as the sort of character to want to offer a focus for dissenting voices.

William Hague
Mr Hague is most eye-catching appointment

The most eye-catching appointment is that of William Hague to the job of shadow foreign secretary.

Mr Hague has long been tipped for a comeback and, while he may now be classed as an old face, he retains an air of newness and in any case is almost universally recognised as a powerful and effective performer.

His performances from the frontbench will be relished by his own MPs and commentators alike.

And he will always be on hand to offer Mr Cameron advice on the highs and lows of being a young, new, effective leader - he's been there. His presence will act as a constant reminder of how it can still all go wrong.

Defence brief

Leaving his friend George Osborne in the role of shadow chancellor is also seen as a good decision by Mr Cameron, particularly following his much-admired performance against the most difficult of Labour enemies, Gordon Brown.

Mr Osborne has remained a relatively untested force, even appearing to recognise that himself when he decided not to run as leader, but his confident and effective display against Mr Brown might have provided a glimpse of the future.

Whether this Cameron-Osborne partnership will go the same way as the Blair-Brown relationship remains to be seen.

What to do with David Davis was always going to be a difficult one.

Some suggested that sacking him now was the best option as they believe he continues to harbour leadership ambitions and might be a future trouble maker.

Yet Mr Cameron seems to have forged a more friendly and mutually respectful relationship with him during the leadership campaign and, in any case, Mr Davis is often at his best when challenging ministers form the despatch box.

The other right-wing contender, Liam Fox, may have wished to keep his job as shadow foreign secretary but his particular talents and style transfer pretty well to the defence brief.

And there are even suggestions he was relatively relaxed about standing aside for Mr Hague.

Giving the key education job to former David Davis supporter David Willetts, while making Theresa May shadow leader of the Commons also helps balance the shape of the new team and will be welcomed by their respective supporters.

Elsewhere, the jobs Mr Cameron has given to Iain Duncan Smith, Ken Clarke and Oliver Letwin show he really does intend to take advantage of "all the talents" on offer in the party.

Mr Letwin's move to policy chief might be particularly canny as it is widely accepted the former frontbencher is at his best, and his happiest, when getting stuck into the heavyweight detail of policy.

Whether any of this translates into a long-term boost for the Tory party's fortunes, however, remains to be seen.





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