Six of the best: Major's winners

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The Independent Online
The six MPs promoted in the reshuffle:

Greg Knight, 47, is a likeable Midlands MP with a passionate interest in classic American cars with big engines. He brought his most recent acquisition, a six-litre Camaro saloon, into Westminster as MPs were debating cutting the mileage allowance for "gas guzzlers".

Approachable, and standing well over six feet tall, Mr Knight was seen as an asset in the whips' office as a quiet enforcer of discipline. He was deeply disappointed to be overlooked for the post of Chief Whip, when Alastair Goodlad was promoted over his head in 1995.

His consolation will be to take on an industry role, at minister of state rank, which effectively makes him number two to Ian Lang, the President of the Board of Trade.

Mr Knight trained as a solicitor and has a special interest in consumer law. Since 1983, he has been the MP for Derby North, where he has a majority of 4,453, but is little known outside Westminster, having served in the anonymity of the whips' office since 1989. CB

David Willetts, 40, brainy and bespectacled, is the new Paymaster General, and one of the brightest ministers in the Government. He plays a crucial role as the go-between for Conservative Central Office and Downing Street.

Known as the "deputy to the deputy", Mr Willetts is the number two to Michael Heseltine, the deputy Prime Minister. He is often to be seen bicycling in a helmet around Whitehall, rather than using an official car.

Although his official title as a minister at the office of public service put him charge of the civil service, his real job has been co-ordinating Government strategy and promotion on the Cabinet's committee for policy co-ordination and presentation - to plot the course of Government announcements and attacks on Labour.

The author of Modern Conservatism, Mr Willetts became an MP for Havant in 1992. His new title will be seen as a consolation for not gaining higher office in the Cabinet before the election. CB

Jacqui Lait, 48, is the first woman in the Tory whips' office, and is an ardent pro-European who has been burnt in effigy on the back of a trawler based in her Hastings and Rye constituency. She had failed to take the necessary hard line against the Common Fisheries Policy, which the small local fishing industry regards as a form of licensed Spanish piracy.

On the lowest rung of the Government ladder, as a private parliamentary secretary, she has been a conspicuous loyalist in asking helpful questions in the Commons chamber. Only yesterday she was one of six Tories who managed to work "New Labour, New Danger" into a question to the Prime Minister - just as she did, to similar Labour jeers, last week.

Before she came into parliament in 1992, she was a political lobbyist, first for the Chemical Industries Association and then on her own account. She was also chairman of the British Section of the European Union of Women. JR

Phillip Oppenheim, 40, is a bright, hard-hitting right-winger, who will remain loyal to Kenneth Clarke as a junior minister at the Treasury.

A committed supporter of free-market economics, Mr Oppenheim is the author of a book on the sunrise economies of the Far East - Can the West Match Japan? - and he was Mr Clarke's parliamentary private secretary for six years before being made an employment minister.

The son of the millionairess and former minister Baroness (Sally) Oppenheim, he is regarded as one of the most eligible bachelors in the Commons. He is writing a political novel which mixes sex and intrigue with insights into life at Westminster.

Often escorted by pretty girlfriends, he is laddish, and keen on sport. He is strongly supportive of Mr Clarke's no-nonsense approach to bashing the Opposition, and as a backbencher was often pulled up by the Speaker for heckling Labour MPs.

Educated at Harrow and Oriel College, Oxford, he became Tory MP for Amber Valley in 1983 and now has a majority of 712, one the narrowest in the House. CB

Liam Fox: The first question that many Tory MPs asked about the extra junior minister at the Foreign Office was, "is he a Euro-sceptic?" For the past two years he has been virtually silenced as a whip, but friends say that, like most of the 1992 intake, he is a "mainstream sceptic".

As a whip, Fox was allocated to the Treasury, which meant that he was in regular contact with Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor. He is thus well- placed to sense the Party's views on Europe, as he would have had to defend the Chancellor's determination to keep the Government's options open on a single currency, to colleagues calling for Mr Clarke's blood.

Fox, now 35, was a GP before he came to Westminster, and was only 30 when he was elected as MP for Woodspring, in Avon. JR

John Bowis: A dripping wet, intelligent and quietly articulate workhorse of the junior ministerial ranks, John Bowis is being given the chance to shine in Steven Norris's high-profile job at the Transport department.

In his maiden speech in the Commons he urged a better deal for pensioners, and did not join the Government until 1993, after four years as unpaid aide to the leading One Nation minister David Hunt. For three years he has toiled in the less than glamorous parts of the Department of Health, dealing with children and mental health.

One of his unsung achievements was to see off a push by right-winger John Redwood to encourage lone mothers to put their children up for adoption.

Now aged 50, his political career began as a party agent in Leicestershire in 1968. He was national organiser of the Federation of Conservative Students when it was a bastion of the wets, and he went on to become "director of community affairs" at Conservative Central Office in the late 1970s. In the early 1980s, he was a Tory councillor in Kingston. JR

Who's in and who's out - the full list

IN: David Willetts, Paymaster General.

OUT: David Heathcoat-Amory, Paymaster General.

IN: Greg Knight, Minister of State, Department of Trade

OUT: Tim Eggar

IN: John Bowis, Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport

OUT: Steven Norris

PROMOTED:

Phillip Oppenheim, Secretary to the Treasury

Liam Fox, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign Office

Simon Burns, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health

Andrew Mackay, Deputy Chief Whip

Patrick McLoughlin, Roger Knapman and Richard Ottaway all move up one place in the whips' office.

Jacqui Lait, assistant whip (former PPS to William Hague)

Anthony Coombs, assistant whip (former PPS to Gillian Shephard)

Peter Ainsworth, assistant whip (former PPS to Virginia Bottomley).

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