Mawhinney shakes up Central Office

Patricia Wynn Davies reports on the Tories' new-look election campaign team
Click to follow
The Independent Online
Tory party chairman, Dr Brian Mawhinney, moved to stamp a new image on Conservative Central Office yesterday with a shake-up of key personnel in the run-up to the general election.

Out goes the showbiz flavour of the Jeremy Hanley era, plus the two Prime Minister-appointed deputies - novelist Michael Dobbs and former minister John Maples.

In comes Michael Trend, Dr Mawhinney's former parliamentary aide and one of the 1992 intake, as sole deputy with oversight of the entire Smith Square operation. Charles Hendry, MP for High Peak, becomes a vice-chairman with responsibility for communications.

Dr Mawhinney has assembled a six-strong election campaign team to act as advisers and conduct specific projects. The combination of relative newcomers and long-servers - Sebastian Coe, Iain Duncan-Smith, Sir Archie Hamilton, Jacqui Lait, Michael Mates and Sir Geoffrey Pattie - reflects the main factions within the party.

From the Eurosceptic right, Mr Duncan-Smith, MP for Chingford, was a prominent member of John Redwood's leadership challenge team. Sir Archie, the former armed forces minister, has similar inclinations, but played a leading part in John Major's campaign. Mr Mates, the former Northern Ireland minister, was a key recruiting sergeant in Michael Heseltine's 1990 challenge.

Dr Mawhinney declined to be drawn at a Central Office news conference on his reasoning. But with Mr Trend, a former Daily Telegraph chief leader writer, running Smith Square, and Mr Heseltine as Deputy Prime Minister with a key campaigning role, there were queries as to Dr Mawhinney's precise job.

He replied: "I am the minister without portfolio who sits on all the major Cabinet committees. I will exercise that overseeing policy role alongside a presentational role alongside the Deputy Prime Minister. I provide the link between that operation and the party operation. The arrangements we have put in hand ... will allow us to adopt a much more focused campaigning strategy."