Campbell's rising stars join frontbench team new guard

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Indy Politics

Sir Menzies Campbell gave the Liberal Democrats' rising stars a chance to prove their worth as he announced the first appointments to his frontbench team.

Nick Clegg, who is seen as a potential future leader of the party, won promotion to its shadow cabinet in the role of home affairs spokesman. It was held until last month by Mark Oaten, who resigned after allegations that he had a relationship with a male prostitute.

Mr Clegg, who entered the Commons at last year's election, backed Mr Oaten's "tough liberalism" approach but wants to sharpen up the party's policies on crime and antisocial behaviour to head off criticism that it is "soft" on law and order and on terrorism.

Last night, he said the Government had got the balance between security and civil liberties wrong. "It has proved more illiberal on civil liberties than any other in recent political times," he said.

Julia Goldsworthy, 28, became the youngest frontbencher at Westminster when she was appointed to shadow the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. She will play a major role in drawing up tax policies as deputy to Vince Cable, who retained his post as Treasury spokesman. He is seen as a possible candidate to become the deputy leader.

Ms Goldsworthy said: "It is vital we develop fresh thinking and new ideas, that we reduce the tax burden on the lowest paid in society and that individuals and companies are incentivised to behave in an environmentally friendly fashion."

The party is expected to drop its long-standing policy of imposing a 50p in the pound rate of tax on incomes above £100,000 and shift towards green taxes to deter behaviour that harms the environment.

Chris Huhne will develop this agenda in his new role as the party's environment spokesman after making green taxes a central element in his campaign for the leadership, in which he gave Sir Menzies a tough fight. He was previously a Treasury spokesman.

Michael Moore, another member of Sir Menzies' foreign and defence team, wins a promotion to the leader's former role as principal foreign affairs spokesman.

Steve Webb, who backed Simon Hughes in the leadership race, had been tipped for a move from his health post but was reappointed in a sign that Sir Menzies wants to unify his party's different factions.

Liberal Democrat MPs welcomed the appointment of Norman Lamb as the new leader's chief of staff. He is perceived to be a popular and consensual figure who is expected to ensure that Sir Menzies's door remains open to his MPs.

This follows criciticism that the previous leader, Charles Kennedy, came to adopt a "bunker mentality" and surrounded himself with acolytes who did not necessarily tell him when he had made mistakes.

Mr Lamb, who was formerly the spokesman for trade and industry, impressed Sir Menzies with the way he handled his plan for the part-privatisation of the Post Office. It was blocked at last September's party conference but approved by the spring conference in Harrogate at the weekend.

Sir Menzies said: "We have the brightest political generation in our ranks and I'm relishing the opportunity to lead them. Our new team will be more than a match for the Government and the Conservatives."

He will map out the route to a "liberal Britain" in a series of speeches and announcements over the coming weeks. "We need to challenge orthodoxy. We need new thinking and fresh ideas. In a whole range of areas - the environment, civil liberties, Britain's place on the international stage and tackling poverty - only Liberal Democrats can provide the fresh thinking we need," he said.

Sir Menzies added: "The managerial politics of both New Labour and of the Conservatives means there is a greater need than ever for a value-based, principled and ambitious alternative. We are determined to provide exactly that."

The new guard

* Nick Clegg, 39, MP, Home Affairs spokesman

Fast-rising star who decided to back Sir Menzies Campbell for the leadership rather than run himself. Like Chris Huhne, his potential rival in the next Liberal Democrat leadership contest, he was an MEP before entering the Commons last May. He established himself quickly as deputy to Sir Menzies in the party's foreign affairs team. He is pro-European but believes the European Union must reform itself and return some powers to member states to win public support.

* Julia Goldsworthy, 28, Treasury spokeswoman

The newly elected MP is the youngest in England and now the youngest frontbencher of any party. A former economic adviser to the Liberal Democrats, she has been given promotion to shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, number two to Vince Cable at a time when the party is reviewing its tax policies. She is appearing on the Channel 4 reality TV show The Gamesthis month. She used to work for the former party chairman and Truro MP MatthewTaylor.

* Michael Moore, 40, Foreign Affairs spokesman

Former deputy foreign affairs spokesman to Sir Menzies Campbell who was promoted to the defence brief after last year's general election. He is a moderniser who acted as Sir Menzies's chief of staff. The son of an army chaplain, he is a trained accountant and has been an MP since 1997, when he picked up Sir David Steel's old seat. He chaired the party's Scottish election campaign in 1999, and is currently deputy leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

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