Dream ends in enemy advance; THE ROUTED RIGHT

The Prime Minister's triumph in the leadership contest left much egg on many faces, report Stephen Castle and Nick Cohen

THERE IS, said one right-winger, only one description of last week's Cabinet reshuffle: "A complete rout."

After 10 days in which John Redwood's right-wing army seemed poised to bring down the Prime Minister, the left has its strongest grip on the top political jobs in living memory. Mr Redwood is on the backbenches, Michael Portillo moves to the politically arid Ministry of Defence, and the only thoroughgoing right-winger to be promoted, Michael Forsyth, will be away from the national stage as Secretary of State for Scotland.

One left-winger said triumphantly: "Ask the right how they intend to respond and they mutter lamely about organising fringe meetings at party conference". A despondent right-winger added: "Perhaps John Major should invite Tony Blair into his Cabinet to restore a bit of right-wing balance."

So where does the right go from here? For Mr Redwood, defeat does have some compensations. His profile as a right-wing standard-bearer has been raised dramatically. Leaving Number One Parliament Street, the modern building which houses MPs' offices, Mr Redwood last week caused heads to turn as bystanders recognised him from television. This was a new sensation for the former Secretary of State for Wales.

Moreover, with 89 votes behind him, he is a clear challenger for the leadership of his wing of the party. The backbenches will give him ample scope, not least for cultivating those MPs who, he calculates, are likely to stay in Parliament after the next election. As one colleague put it: "It is a long time since there has been a genuine right-wing intellect and heavyweight carving out an agenda on the backbenches."

For Mr Redwood's chief right-wing rival, Mr Portillo, the future is not so rosy. The right has criticised him for failing to show the guts that Mr Redwood displayed in resigning and fighting. And not only colleagues are angry; Rupert Murdoch, some of whose papers were gearing up to support a Portillo challenge, is said to be disappointed.

The left is also deeply suspicious of him, partly because of an apparent attempt by his supporters to set up a campaign headquarters in Lord North Street. Mr Portillo's subsequent refusal to confirm or deny involvement smacked, said one right-winger "of student politics. It is not enough to pledge public loyalty to the Prime Minister, then fail to encourage your supporters to back him".

The Ministry of Defence is a promotion, a big office of state which often serves as an apprenticeship to the Foreign Office. But it presents difficult options: a failure to implement further cuts opens up accusations of going soft, a tough spending regime will upset that most powerful of Tory interest groups, the chiefs of staff, and there is little scope for involvement in economic and European debates. As one ex-minister put it: "The only clear blue water he will be seeing is off the coast of Bosnia."

Interestingly, the leadership campaign left most of the debates on the right unresolved, concentrating more on Mr Major's leadership style and rhetoric. Mr Redwood's agenda was more Eurosceptic than Mr Major's - it ruled out a single currency- and more populist, backing capital punishment and calling for the royal yatcht to be saved. But few big policy differences emerged. Instead of opting for a Newt Gingrich-style dismantling of the state, Mr Redwood called for smaller scale reductions in the role of government, and lower tax.

According to Daniel Finkelstein, director of the Social Market Foundation, a free-market think-tank: "The right has to decide whether it wants to tack to the mainstream or move trenchantly rightwards, which may separate it from the electorate."

On the backbenches Mr Redwood may move further in the Gingrich direction. Mr Portillo would then have to decide whether to position himself as the centre-right candidate or follow suit. The centre-right territory is currently occupied by Peter Lilley, Secretary of State for Social Security, who is arguing for gradual reform of the welfare state rather than big cuts.

The less cerebral right-wing element on the backbenches is keeping its head down but, many wonder, for how long? As one left-winger put it: "In the longer term there must be a question-mark over that. The difficulty is that, where once we knew that the whipless MPs numbered nine, we now know that Mr Redwood's backers number 89."

Whatever the length of the truce, right-wingers found one thing with which to comfort themselves: the Government's unpopularity. "The only consolation," said one last week, "is that when we lose the next election we can blame it on this SDP-style Cabinet, and get back to restoring a proper right-wing Conservative party."

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home