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New MPs promoted by Blair

TONY BLAIR, the Labour leader, has moved 13 MPs from the 1992 intake, including four women, into his front-bench team in a move to bolster the modernisers' position within the party, writes Stephen Castle.

Mr Blair's reshuffle follows a week of setbacks, including a poor Parliamentary performance by Jack Straw, Shadow Home Secretary, in the Commons, and a rebuff for "modernisers" in the Shadow Cabinet elections.

Mr Blair restructured his team at a junior level this weekend. There were promotions for some of the most successful of the new intake, including Geoff Hoon, given responsibility for the information superhighway under Margaret Beckett at Trade and Industry, and for Stephen Byers, promoted to the education team. Estelle Morris also joins the education front bench.

Other newcomers are Alan Milburn (Health), John Denham and Malcolm Wicks (Social Security) and Mike O'Brien (Environment). Four more new MPs will join the whips office. Changes to existing front bench positions include Brian Wilson, who moves from DTI to Transport, replacing Henry McLeish, who moves to Health.

n A NOP/Sunday Times poll today shows Labour 30 points ahead of the Conservatives.