10/05/2005

Howard begins Tory reshuffle

Conservative leader Michael Howard has begun the reshuffle of the Shadow Cabinet, amid increasing speculation about who will take over the party leadership when he stands down.

Mr Howard announced that George Osbourne would replace Oliver Letwin as shadow Chancellor. There had been reports that Mr Letwin wished to step down from the post.

Dr Liam Fox, the party’s chairman, will become shadow Foreign Secretary and he will be replaced as chairman by Francis Maude.

David Cameron will take over the post of Shadow Education Secretary, taking over from Tim Collins who lost his parliamentary seat last week.

Other appointments include Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who takes the post of Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, replacing David Willetts who will now shadow the new productivity, energy and industry department.

John Redwood is to remain as deregulation spokesperson, while Alan Duncan will become the spokesperson for transport.

The reshuffle comes as speculation mounts over who will replace Michael Howard as party leader. Mr Howard announced his intention to step down following last week’s election defeat by Labour. However, he has said that he will stay on until the party’s rules for electing a leader are reviewed.

Mr Howard faced stern criticism from Dixons President Lord Kalms, a former Conservative treasurer and one of the party’s prominent financial supporters earlier today. He told the BBC today that Mr Howard was a “lame duck leader” and said that “tomorrow would not be quick enough” for him to resign and make way for a new leader. He said: “Michael’s done a terrific job, but once you are gone, you are gone and every day is now a wasted day”.

Another Conservative MP, former Shadow International Development Secretary John Bercow also criticised Mr Howard in an article in the ‘Independent’ today, saying that his calling Prime Minister Tony Blair a liar over the War in Iraq was “unwise” and said that his focus on immigration throughout the election campaign was “repellent”. He also attacked the party’s election manifesto, describing it as “embarrassingly thin”.

No Conservative MPs have yet announced their intention to run for leader. However, shadow defence secretary Nicolas Soames and shadow environment minister Tim Yeo both resigned their positions in the shadow cabinet yesterday, prompting today’s reshuffle. Mr Soames rubbished claims that he would be interested in the post, but Tim Yeo did not rule out the possibility. John Redwood was also vague about his intentions, telling BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme: “By all means talk to me when we have a leadership election up and running or in prospect. That is not the current position.”

(KMcA/SP)






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