Cameron opens his arms to a rebel – and an Essex boy

Tories go against public school convention as they slug it out with Labour
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Indy Politics

He is officially the most rebellious Conservative MP in the House of Commons, but yesterday David Cameron insisted he was setting aside his differences with Kenneth Clarke over Europe to bring him back into the political front line.

The new shadow Business Secretary's pro-European views have led him to defy Mr Cameron 33 times in the Commons – far more than any other Opposition backbencher, new research disclosed yesterday.

Tory chiefs shrugged off the former chancellor's history of opposition to the party leadership, arguing he had been brought back into the top team to give a new cutting edge to their planned onslaught on the Government's handling of the recession.

Mr Cameron also promoted Mark Francois, the strongly Eurosceptic spokesman on Europe, to the Shadow Cabinet in an attempt to reassure activists that there would be no change of direction on the issue.

Tory sources said the elevation of Mr Francois, who was educated at an Essex comprehensive school and Bristol University, was further evidence of Mr Cameron's determination to appoint shadow ministers from a broader social background.

The Tory leader's wider-than-expected reshuffle also saw a major promotion for Chris Grayling, who has been switched from shadow Work and Pensions Secretary to shadow Home Secretary.

He replaces Dominic Grieve, who has struggled to deliver telling blows on the Government in the high-profile brief. The tenacious Mr Grayling is now preparing to focus on rising levels of violent crime and the Government's preparations for identity cards. Mr Grieve, who is a QC, becomes shadow Justice Secretary and shadow Attorney General.

The populist Eric Pickles, whose campaigning skills are much admired by Mr Cameron, moves from shadow Communities Secretary to become Conservative chairman.

He switches jobs with Caroline Spelman, who is still awaiting the outcome of an investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards into claims that she misused a Commons allowance to pay a nanny.

Mr Clarke is replacing Alan Duncan, whose relations with the leadership have become strained. He becomes shadow Leader of the Commons in succession to Theresa May, who takes on her eighth Shadow Cabinet job as Work and Pensions spokesman.

Nick Herbert is promoted from shadow Justice Secretary to Environment spokesman. He replaces Peter Ainsworth, who has been sacked from the Shadow Cabinet.

Tory sources said yesterday that Mr Cameron had assembled his "strongest possible" team ready for a general election, but evidence of the risky nature of Mr Clarke's appointment was underlined by research by Nottingham University.

Mr Clarke's bitter opposition to his party's line on the Lisbon Treaty led him to defy Tory whips 33 times since December 2005, when Mr Cameron became party leader.

His rebelliousness even outstripped that of the former Tory MP Bob Spink, who revolted 23 times before quitting the Conservatives to join the UK Independence Party.

Last night Mr Clarke tried to play down his record, insisting that all the votes were on the Lisbon Treaty. He said: "I have not been rebellion on a whole range of issues, far from it."

The first evidence of a Eurosceptic backlash against Mr Clarke's appointment emerged yesterday as the Bruges Group think-tank attacked him as "Jurassic Clarke" and said his return to the Shadow Cabinet "trampled over" Mr Cameron's pledge to hold a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union.

The Tory leader said yesterday that the return of Mr Clarke meant the party had the "best economic team". Mr Cameron added: "He has more experience of dealing with tough economic challenges than Gordon Brown's entire Cabinet. With the other changes I have made today, we have combined fresh thinking with experience, hope and change with stability and common sense."

Mr Clarke said he accepted the party had reached a "settled view on European matters", and promised: "I will not oppose the direction David will set on European policies in the future."

Team Cameron: The Shadow Cabinet

Chris Grayling

Chris Grayling was rewarded with a big promotion for years of service as the Conservatives' frontbench attack dog. Mr Grayling won the key role of shadow Home Secretary after landing aseries of blows on Labour ministers in his roving role harrying the Government. The grammar school boyfrom Buckinghamshire abandoned TV production for business before entering Parliament as MP for Epsom and Ewell in 2001 and has held a series of shadow ministerial jobs, most recentlyWork and Pensions spokesman. He used this portfolio to build his reputation as an aggressive operator, flourishing a full leak of the Government's White Paper on welfare reform daysbefore its publication. The 46-year old, who has two children, is also an expert on inland waterways and wrote a history of the Bridgwater Canal.

Mark Francois

Mark Francois was among a small band of Tory MPs who arrived in Parliament in Tony Blair's second election landslide eight years ago.

His impressive work rate and forensic mind won him promotion to the front bench the following year and to the high-profile post of shadow Europe minister in 2007. Yesterday he became the first Basildon comprehensive school product to sit in the Shadow Cabinet. The diminutive Mr Francois, 43, was a lobbyist and councillor in his home town before becoming MP for nearby Rayleigh, beating Boris Johnson to secure the nomination for the safe seat. Strongly Eurosceptic, the former Territorial Army officer used his maiden Commons speech to warn against being "subsumed by a foreign superstate that ignores our traditions".

Eric Pickles

With his distinctive Yorkshire brogue and permanent battle with the bulge, Eric Pickles could not be further from the stereotype of the fast-rising Tory front-bencher.

But Mr Pickles, with long experience of winning votes in unpromising areas for the Tories, is much admired by David Cameron and party activists. His promotion to the Conservative chairmanship is a reward for masterminding last year's stunning by-election victory in Crewe and Nantwich. Educated at a Keighley grammar school and Leeds Polytechnic, Mr Pickles, 56, came to national prominence in 1988 when he led the Tories to power on Bradford City Council. His triumph was hailed by the party as proof that the Thatcherite message could be taken to Labour's northern heartlands.

Team Cameron: The Shadow Cabinet

*Leader of the Lords: Lord Strathclyde

*Foreign Secretary: William Hague

*Chancellor: George Osborne

*Energy and Climate Change: Greg Clark

*Business and Enterprise: Kenneth Clarke

*Leader of the Commons: Alan Duncan

*Defence: Liam Fox

*Europe: Mark Francois

*Wales: Cheryl Gillan

*Children, Schools and Families: Michael Gove

*Home Secretary: Chris Grayling

*Justice: Dominic Grieve

*Chief Secretary to the Treasury: Philip Hammond

*Environment, Food & Rural Affairs: Nick Herbert

*Culture, Media and Sport: Jeremy Hunt

*Health: Andrew Lansley

*Policy Review & Research: Oliver Letwin

*Cabinet Office: Francis Maude

*Work and Pensions and Women: Theresa May

*Chief Whip: Patrick McLoughlin

*International Development: Andrew Mitchell

*Scotland: David Mundell

*Security: Baroness Neville-Jones of Hutton

*Northern Ireland: Owen Paterson

*Chairman: Eric Pickles

*Housing: Grant Shapps

*Communities & Local Government: Caroline Spelman

*Transport: Theresa Villiers

*Community Cohesion & Social Action: Baroness Warsi of Dewsbury

*Innovation, Universities and Skills: David Willetts

*Chief Whip in the Lords: Baroness Anelay of St Johns