Beckett moves right - then stands her ground

When Margaret Beckett became Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in May, one of her jobs became running the Government's monopolies and mergers policy. She quickly became known in the City as "Block-it Beckett".

Mrs Beckett may have opted to keep the title of President of the Board of Trade but she instantly reversed Tory policy of often giving the benefit of the doubt on takeovers.

"She's bending over backwards to ensure there is no conceivable effect on competition," says David Campbell, a utilities analyst with Greig Middleton.

Mrs Beckett referred US Pacificorp's friendly bid for Energy Group to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission against the electricity regulator's advice - though on Friday the MMC gave the deal the go-ahead. The 54-year- old also overruled the MMC and prevented Bass from buying Carlsberg-Tetley.

Brewers have, of course, never been Labour's best friends. And Mrs Beckett, one of the few ministers who served in the last Labour government, was at one time considered well to the left of the party. Later she moved right and, on the death of John Smith in 1994, assumed the leadership of the party until the elections that propelled Tony Blair to the top.

Mrs Beckett has moved further politically than any other member of Mr Blair's Cabinet to embrace New Labour principles. The only Beckett equipment still on the left of the road is the famous caravan in which she takes her holidays. "Block-it Beckett" at work again.

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