Page last updated at 18:29 GMT, Thursday, 8 January 2009

Lib Dem front bench: Who's Who

Vince Cable, Chris Huhne and David Laws

Party leader - Nick Clegg

Elected to Parliament in 2005, at the age of 38, Nick Clegg became the UK's youngest party leader little more than two years later, after winning a tight battle with Chris Huhne for the right to succeed Sir Menzies Campbell.

An effective television performer on the economically liberal right of the party, he carved out a home affairs policy distinct from the "tough liberalism" of his predecessor in the role, Mark Oaten.

An expert skier, who speaks five European languages, he cut his political teeth as an adviser to European Commissioner Leon Brittan before spending five years as a Lib Dem MEP, during which he pushed for reform of procedures in the European Parliament.

Treasury spokesman and deputy leader - Vince Cable

Vince Cable began his political life with Labour, leaving to join the SDP when the party moved leftwards in the early 1980s.

He had been an adviser to John Smith when the future Labour leader was trade secretary in the James Callaghan administration and co-authored a leaflet with a young Gordon Brown.

The former chief economist for oil giant Shell International was elected MP for Twickenham in 1997 after running for every election since 1983. He was trade and industry spokesman before moving to the Treasury portfolio.

Mr Cable was a key supporter of Sir Menzies Campbell's successful party leadership campaign in 2006 and was rewarded with the position of deputy leader.

Following Sir Menzies' resignation in October 2007, he became acting leader, in which role he was widely regarded as an impressive performer.

New leader Nick Clegg restored him to his deputy leader/shadow chancellor post.

Home Affairs - Chris Huhne

One of a batch of ambitious MPs elected in 2005, Chris Huhne's profile soared when he challenged for the party leadership, coming second to both Sir Menzies Campbell and, more recently, Nick Clegg.

His campaign was widely acclaimed, and Mr Clegg, who pipped him by just over 500 votes, appointed him home affairs spokesman in his first front bench team.

In March 2008 the role of justice spokesman was transferred to his portfolio when David Heath resigned his frontbench role after defying the party whip in a parliamentary vote on the controversial EU referendum.

A former economics journalist and businessman, Mr Huhne was the Lib Dems' deputy economics spokesman before moving to environment.

He was an MEP from 1999 to 2005, before becoming MP for Eastleigh.

Educated at Westminster School, the Sorbonne and Magdalen College, Oxford, he has written four books.

Justice - David Howarth

The former Cambridge University law lecturer became MP for the city in 2005, having been leader of the city council.

He was the Lib Dems' spokesman on energy policy and community affairs, before being given the job of shadowing the solicitor general. He was promoted to the role of justice spokesman in Nick Clegg's January 2009 reshuffle.

Chief Whip - Paul Burstow

Tailor's son Paul Burstow has now served on the Lib Dems' front bench under four different leaders.

He joined the party from the SDP and was elected MP for Sutton and Cheam in 1997.

He was quickly made a junior front bench spokesman on local government, and within a few months, Paddy Ashdown appointed him to head the party's front bench team on local government.

He was party spokesman on older people under Charles Kennedy before taking over the health brief in 2003.

Mr Burstow stepped down from the front bench shortly after the 2005 general election. Sir Menzies Campbell brought him back in March 2006, in the chief whip role, which he retained under Nick Clegg, when he became leader in December 2007.

Commons leader - David Heath

One of the most seasoned campaigners on the Lib Dem benches, David Heath quit as justice spokesman in early 2008 in protest at leader Nick Clegg's opposition to a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

But the Somerton and Frome MP was not in the wilderness for long, returning to the frontline in October 2008 to lead a commission on privacy and then, in Mr Clegg's January 2009 reshuffle, he was given the job of shadowing the Commons leader, a role he had first carried out under former leader Charles Kennedy.

A witty and engaging Commons performer, the former optician entered Parliament in 1997 with a tiny majority, through the classic Lib Dem route of being a well-known local politician.

In 1984 he was, at 31, the youngest ever leader of a county council when he became leader of Somerset and chaired the area's police authority.

Culture, Media and Sport - Don Foster

Don Foster provided one of the most memorable upsets of the 1992 general election when he unseated Chris Patten - the architect of the Conservative Party's victory.

A former science teacher who rose to chair Avon County Council's education committee, Mr Foster was quickly appointed education spokesman on arriving in the Commons.

When Charles Kennedy took over from Paddy Ashdown as Lib Dem leader, Mr Foster was given the job of shadowing John Prescott's environment, transport and regions ministry.

He then became transport spokesman before taking up his current culture, media and sport portfolio.


Defence - Nick Harvey

Nick Harvey, an MP since 1992, has held a wide number of briefs within the party.

He has spoken on transport, trade and industry, English regions and health, and shadowed the deputy prime minister before being given the defence brief by Sir Menzies Campbell, a post he retained in Nick Clegg's first shadow cabinet.

Mr Harvey was also chairman of campaigns and communications for the party during the late 1990s.

Before becoming an MP, he worked in communications and marketing.

International Development - Michael Moore

Michael Moore, an MP since 1997, was defence spokesman before being promoted, at the age of 40, to the foreign affairs role in 2006, succeeding Sir Menzies Campbell.

Nick Clegg switched him to international development in his first shadow cabinet.

Mr Moore is also the deputy leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and the governor and vice-chairman of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.

Before speaking on defence issues, Mr Moore was a junior foreign affairs spokesman.

He chaired the party's 1999 Scottish election campaign and spent two years as transport spokesman leading up to the 2001 election, before becoming the Lib Dem spokesman on Scottish affairs.

On the libertarian wing of the party, Mr Moore was once a parliamentary researcher and is a qualified accountant.

Energy and Climate Change - Simon Hughes

A popular figure with the Lib Dem grassroots, Simon Hughes has twice stood for the party leadership.

In 1999 he was beaten by Charles Kennedy. His 2006 campaign was overshadowed by his admission to a tabloid newspaper that he had had gay relationships.

The North Southwark and Bermondsey MP also stood unsuccessfully against Ken Livingstone for London mayor in May 2004, coming third.

A barrister by profession, he is known for his views on civil liberties and has served as the party's justice spokesman. He is also an anti-nuclear campaigner, although his public backing for Sir Menzies Campbell's "wait and see" policy on replacing Trident helped the party leader win a crucial conference vote in 2007.

His loyalty was rewarded in Sir Menzies' July reshuffle with a post shadowing the commons leader, where he remained when Nick Clegg took over the party reins. He was promoted to the key role of energy and climate change spokesman in Mr Clegg's January 2009 reshuffle, in readiness for a general election.

Education: Children, Schools and Families - David Laws

After gaining a double first in maths at Cambridge, David Laws had a high-flying career in banking before entering Parliament in 2001 as MP for Yeovil, the seat of former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown.

He is seen as being on the economically liberal right of the party and was one of the MPs behind The Orange Book - setting out a more free-market approach to Lib Dem policy.

But he rebuffed an attempt by the Conservatives to poach him in March 2007, reportedly telling George Osborne he was "not a Tory".

He impressed Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell with his mastery of the unglamorous work and pensions brief and was rewarded in the July 2007 reshuffle with the newly-created post of children, schools and families spokesman, which he retained when Nick Clegg became leader.

Education: Innovation, Universities and Skills - Stephen Williams

Stephen Williams became Bristol West's first Lib Dem MP when he wrested the seat from Labour in 2005.

The former tax consultant and Bristol councillor was made a member of the influential public accounts committee.

He has also held public-health and higher-education briefs and been a member of the education and skills committee.

The party's first openly gay MP was given the innovation, universities and skills brief in December 2007.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - Tim Farron

Tim Farron had been a spokesman on countryside matters until March 2008 but was one of three Lib Dems to step down from the front bench, so they could defy the party whip and vote for a referendum on the EU Treaty.

But he returned to the front bench in October in the moves prompted by Gordon Brown's cabinet reshuffle, to the role vacated by Steve Webb.

A relatively new MP, he ousted the then shadow education secretary Tim Collins to be elected as MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale in 2005.

He was quickly appointed to be the party's youth spokesman, before becoming parliamentary private secretary to then-leader Sir Menzies Campbell and was promoted to Nick Clegg's top team when he became leader.

Foreign Affairs - Ed Davey

An economics expert, Ed Davey is given to making detailed, forensic speeches on tax and finance policies but also managed to get himself thrown out of the Commons during an impassioned outburst after failing to secure a debate on a referendum being held on the UK's membership of the EU.

He was formerly the Lib Dem spokesman for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, has served as a junior Treasury spokesman and was leader of the Lib Dem London Group.

Before being promoted to foreign affairs, he was party trade and industry spokesman, chief of staff and campaign co-ordinator.

Mr Davey, an MP since 1997, is the holder of an award for bravery after saving a woman who had fallen onto the tracks at a London train station.

Health - Norman Lamb

Norman Lamb was previously the party's trade and industry spokesman and chief of staff to former leader Sir Menzies Campbell before he appointed him to the health role.

He retained the post when Nick Clegg succeeded his former boss as head of the party.

Originally a Labour supporter, Mr Lamb joined the SDP in the 1980s and became a Lib Dem MP in 2001.

He has been a spokesman on international development and a member of the Treasury select committee.

Home Secretary - Chris Huhne

One of a batch of ambitious MPs elected in 2005, Chris Huhne's profile soared when he challenged for the party leadership, coming second to both Sir Menzies Campbell and, more recently, Nick Clegg.

His campaign was widely acclaimed, and Mr Clegg, who pipped him by just over 500 votes, appointed him home affairs spokesman in his first front bench team.

In March 2008 the role of justice spokesman was transferred to his portfolio when David Heath resigned his frontbench role after defying the party whip in a parliamentary vote on the controversial EU referendum.

A former economics journalist and businessman, Mr Huhne was the Lib Dems' deputy economics spokesman before moving to environment.

He was an MEP from 1999 to 2005, before becoming MP for Eastleigh.

Educated at Westminster School, the Sorbonne and Magdalen College, Oxford, he has written four books.

Business and Enterprise - John Thurso

John Thurso made a small piece of constitutional history in 2001 when he became the first hereditary peer to be elected to the House of Commons, having previously sat in the House of Lords.

Previously, as Viscount Thurso, he had been a front bench spokesman in the House of Lords, but voted for his own expulsion and refused a life peerage.

He won the Commons seat which his grandfather had held for 30 years, Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross.

He was rapidly promoted to the front bench and in November 2001 became the party's principal spokesman on Scottish Affairs. Between October 2003 and May 2005 he also took on the transport portfolio.

Leader of the Lords - Lord McNally

Tom McNally was press secretary to former Prime Minister James Callaghan before becoming a Labour MP in 1979.

He lost his Stockport seat in 1983 after joining the breakaway SDP. He supported the SDP's merger with the Liberal Party in 1987, going on to spend 10 years as Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown's political adviser. He entered the Lords in 1995.

In 2006, he admitted having been an alcoholic between 1982 and 1985, after Charles Kennedy confessed his problems with drink.

Outside politics he has enjoyed a successful career in public relations and is chairman of PR giant Weber Shandwick.

Communities and Local Government - Julia Goldsworthy

Julia Goldsworthy, was just 26 when she entered Parliament, making her the youngest MP in England.

She has a background in economics and was a Liberal Democrat Treasury adviser from 2003 to 2004, winning her Falmouth and Camborne seat from Labour in the 2005 general election.

After entering the shadow cabinet as health spokesman and then shadowing the chief secretary to the treasury, she moved to communities and local government under Nick Clegg's leadership.

Ms Goldsworthy has also worked for Carrick District Council and as a parliamentary researcher.

Her hobbies include the Cornish sport of gig rowing, squash and running. She boosted her profile in 2006 by taking part in Channel 4 sports-themed reality show The Games.

Scotland and Northern Ireland - Alistair Carmichael

Alistair Carmichael resigned as front bench spokesman on Scotland and Northern Ireland in March 2008 so he could defy the party whip and vote in favour of a referendum on the EU Treaty.

He was one of three front bench spokesmen to do so - in all 15 Lib Dems ignored instructions to abstain from the vote.

Responsibility was added to international development spokesman Michael Moore's portfolio but Mr Carmichael returned to the top team, along with fellow rebel Tim Farron, in Nick Clegg's October 2008 reshuffle.

Elected as MP for Orkney and Shetland - the UK's most northerly constituency - in 2001, his previous jobs include hotel manager and solicitor.

During his time as an MP he has also been a transport and an energy spokesman.

Transport - Norman Baker

A former English teacher, Norman Baker was elected to represent Lewes, in Sussex, in 1997 - the constituency's first non-Tory MP since 1874.

He quickly established a reputation for persistent and shrewd use of Parliamentary questions and claimed credit for triggering Peter Mandelson's second resignation with enquiries about the Hinduja brothers.

Mr Baker was promoted to become the Liberal Democrats' environment spokesman in 2002, at the age of 45, but quit the front bench in March 2006. He said part of the reason was that he wanted to investigate the death of government weapons scientist Dr David Kelly.

He took the cabinet office portfolio under Sir Menzies Campbell and became shadow transport spokesman in Nick Clegg's first shadow cabinet.

The MP waged a two-year Freedom of Information (FOI) battle with the Commons authorities to get a full breakdown of MPs' expenses and has led efforts to stop MPs and peers exempting themselves from the FOI Act.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury spokesman - Jeremy Browne

Jeremy Browne has been MP for Taunton since 2005, having previously worked in financial consultancy.

He was a foreign affairs spokesman before being given the Treasury brief by party leader Nick Clegg.

Mr Browne formerly advised former Lib Dem leaders Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy on press strategy.

The son of a diplomat, he lived in many different countries as a child including Iran, Zimbabwe and Belgium. Outside politics he worked in financial consultancy.

Work and Pensions - Steve Webb

Steve Webb, a former economist and lecturer, has previously been the Lib Dem spokesman on health and work and pensions and on the environment.

A keen advocate of using social networking websites to connect with voters, he was former party leader Sir Menzies Campbell's manifesto chief.

It was thought he might run for the Lib Dem leadership in 2007, but Mr Webb ruled himself out, backing Nick Clegg instead.

He has been MP for Northavon, in Somerset, since 1997.

He took on the new role of energy and climate change spokesman in October 2008, shadowing the new cabinet post created in Gordon Brown's reshuffle.

Press reports suggested leader Nick Clegg was unhappy with his performance in this role, although this was denied by Mr Clegg. He became work and pensions spokesman in the January 2009 reshuffle.

Duchy of Lancaster - Jenny Willott

Cardiff Central MP Jenny Willott took on the work and pensions brief from Danny Alexander in June.

A councillor in London at the age of 23, she later worked in the voluntary sector, the Welsh Assembly and as a chief researcher to Lembit Opik.

She became an MP in 2005, the first Lib Dem to win the seat, and by 2006 she was the party's youth affairs spokeswoman.

She is also the party's deputy chief whip and on the Lib Dem committee looking at benefits and pensions.

Wales - Roger Williams

A founder member of the SDP in 1981 and one of its first local councillors, in Powys, mid Wales, Roger Williams entered Parliament in 2001 as the Liberal Democrat MP for Brecon and Radnorshire.

A farmer and former chairman of the Brecon Beacons national park, he takes a keen interest in agricultural issues and he has campaigned for reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.

His other interests include education - he was a former lay schools inspector - and Europe.

As a member of the European Centre for Wales in Brussels he also lobbied for EU support for Wales.



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