Asda chief is Hague's moderniser

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Indy Politics
Archie Norman, the high-powered chairman of the supermarket chain Asda, was yesterday effectively put in charge of the modernisation of the Tory Party by William Hague, writes Colin Brown.

Mr Norman, a dynamic businessman who turned around the fortunes of Asda, has been asked to do the same for the Tories by their new leader as part of Mr Hague's wide-ranging appointments to the Tory front bench.

Mr Hague yesterday also paid a surprise visit to Tory headquarters in Smith Square to carry out his own off-the-cuff inspection of Central Office. Lord Parkinson, reappointed as caretaker chairman by Mr Hague, was not there, owing to a "long-standing engagement", said officials.

Mr Norman, 43, elected on 1 May as MP for Tunbridge Wells, has been appointed as a vice chairman of the party, but he is clearly seen by Mr Hague as a leading candidate to take over as party chairman from Lord Parkinson to steer the Tories into the election.

Mr Norman has been given the task of analysing the reasons for the decline of the Tory Party in the country, and increasing its membership, although officials laughed off suggestions that the Tories would open a recruitment stall in every branch of Asda.

Tory leadership sources insisted that Mr Hague had ensured a balance between the right-wing and pro-European supporters of Kenneth Clarke's bid for the leadership. They include Ian Taylor, who was appointed as a front bench spokesman on Northern Ireland under Andrew Mackay.

Gary Streeter, regarded as a Euro-sceptic on the left of the party, will take responsibility for European affairs under Michael Howard, the shadow foreign secretary. Another of Mr Clarke's supporters, Michael Jack, was appointed as a shadow minister for health under John Maples.

Gillian Shephard, the shadow Leader of the House, was asked by Mr Hague to "galvanise" Tory backbenchers into "helpful activity" in Parliament but to enforce disclipline on policy, all the shadow secretaries will take over the chairmanship of the backbench Tory committees, from which trouble over economic policy, Europe and Ireland stemmed in the past.

In a move to "clean the slate", Mr Hague returned to the front bench a number of MPs who were forced to resign in the last Parliament, including Tim Yeo, and David Willetts, who resigned for "dissembling" to a select committee.

Shadow Cabinet in full

The full list of the Opposition team in Parliament is as follows (with shadow departments in alphabetical order):

Leader: William Hague.

Agriculture Fisheries and Food: David Curry, James Paice.

Constitutional Affairs, Scotland and Wales: Michael Ancram, Liam Fox, Nigel Evans, Bernard Jenkin.

Defence: Sir George Young, Robert Key.

Education and Employment: Stephen Dorrell, David Willetts (Employment), Angela Browning (Education).

Environment, Transport and the Regions: Sir Norman Fowler, Tim Yeo, Christopher Chope.

Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs: Michael Howard, Gary Streeter, David Faber.

Health: John Maples, Michael Jack.

Home Affairs: Brian Mawhinney, James Clappison, John Greenway.

Law Officer: Sir Nicholas Lyell.

Shadow Leader of the Commons: Gillian Shephard, Sir Patrick Cormack.

Shadow Leader of the Lords: Viscount Cranborne.

Lord Chancellor's Department: Lord Kingsland, Edward Garnier.

National Heritage: Francis Maude, Patrick Nicholls.

International Development: Alastair Goodlad.

Northern Ireland: Andrew Mackay, Ian Taylor.

Social Security: Iain Duncan Smith, Simon Burns.

Trade and Industry: John Redwood, Michael Fallon, Cheryl Gillan.

Treasury: Peter Lilley, David Heathcoat-Amory, Tim Boswell.

Whips (Commons): John Arbuthnot, Peter Ainsworth, Patrick McLoughlin, Richard Ottaway, Malcolm Moss.

Whips (Lords): Lord Strathclyde.

Conservative Central Office: Chairman, Lord Parkinson; Deputy chairman, Michael Trend; Vice-chairmen, Alan Duncan, Archie Norman.