Cabinet tilts to the left in reshuffle

Heseltine wins post of deputy

DONALD MACINTYRE

Political Editor

John Major yesterday pressed home his leadership victory over the party's Europhobes by making Michael Heseltine his deputy and deftly tilting his Cabinet towards the centre-left in the most sweeping government reconstruction of his five years as Prime Minister.

In a move which provoked claims from the party's right- wing that Mr Major was paying the price of Mr Heseltine's loyalty and his supporters' delivery of Mr Major's re-election victory, the former President of the Board of Trade emerged as the pivotal figure in an otherwise unglamorous but far-reaching Cabinet shake-up.

The highlights of a reshuffle which brought five new ministers into the Cabinet were the promotion of Mr Heseltine to the role of First Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister and the propulsion of 34-year-old William Hague into the post of Secretary of State for Wales.

Malcolm Rifkind, Douglas Hurd's own clear choice as successor, moves into the Government's top ranks for the first time as Foreign Secretary, leaving the political balance of the three main offices of state largely unchanged. Mr Rifkind's deep reservations about a single currency will ease the disappointment of the mainstream right that the job did not go to Michael Howard.

But making Mr Heseltine First Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister - a post left dormant since it was held by Rab Butler in 1962 - loosens the grip of the party's right on the main levers of power. Mr Heseltine will have a critical role in developing new thinking on policy and campaigning within both the Government and the party between now and the election.

It was acknowledged in Whitehall last night that Mr Major's desire for an enhanced role for Mr Heseltine had been discussed since at least May, and that Mr Heseltine's lengthy visit to Downing Street had been partly to discuss the details.

Mr Major has also used his victory to assert his own choice of Cabinet colleagues more firmly than at any time since he came to power in 1990. Although the price is the elevation of Mr Heseltine to a rank above all other ministers, including Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor, Mr Major has at last set him the task of digging the party out of its electoral trough.

Mr Major moved Michael Portillo to defence - a promotion which also limits Mr Portillo's ability to pursue his right- wing agenda on the economy and social issues. But as the hard right of the party reacted with dismay to the reshuffle, one supporter of the leadership contest, Bill Walker, said: "If the Cabinet assumes policies that ignore the 111 that did not support the Prime Minister in the election, then I think his difficulties are greater."

Mr Major rewarded key loyalists in his own campaign team, promoting Ian Lang to head a Department of Trade and Industry enhanced by the addition of the industrial relations and pay functions of the Department of Employment. The DTI also takes over responsibility for science, and employment's training functions go to Gillian Shephard's education department.

Michael Forsyth, the one heavyweight right-winger from the party's Euro- sceptic wing to come into the Cabinet for the first time, is also rewarded for his loyalty to Mr Major by becoming Secretary of State for Scotland. Brian Mawhinney, another rising loyalist, becomes party chairman. As expected, Alastair Goodlad, another key Major loyalist from the centre-left of the party, becomes Chief Whip. But Mr Major was unexpectedly brutal in dropping Jeremy Hanley, the accident-prone, outgoing Tory chairman, from the Cabinet. David Hunt, who disappointed in his role as Whitehall troubleshooter, resigned before he could be offered another Cabinet post.

Mr Major originally floated the appointment of William Hague - the youngest Cabinet entrant since Harold Wilson in 1947 - to the key Treasury post of Chief Secretary. But Mr Clarke is said to have successfully made clear his preference for William Waldegrave on the grounds of his much wider ministerial experience.

The main interest in Mr Major's appointments below Cabinet rank announced last night was that of Sir Nicholas Bonsor, one of the key backbench right- wingers who campaigned for Mr Major over the past fortnight. Sir Nicholas replaces Mr Goodlad at the Foreign Office.

Mr Major said last night that he had appointed a "Cabinet that balances all shades of Conservative opinion" and one "behind which the whole party can and must unite". He insisted: "No other party in our country today can so dominate the intellectual debate about the future of the country."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory