Chairwoman May has the last laugh on Davis

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Indy Politics

Theresa May has got the last laugh on David Davis just seven months after he belittled her at the Shadow Cabinet's Christmas party.

In front of journalists, the party chairman made cutting references to her "sexy" black leather trousers. Now she is moving into his old office, with a brief to help the party shake off its white male middle-aged image. And she is likely to tackle the task with relish, given the sexism she has faced at many levels of the party.

Despite her credentials as a City high-flyer and experience in local government, she has had a gruelling six-year search to find a safe Conservative seat. After winning Maidenhead in 1997, she made a rapid rise through the party ranks, shining from within the tiny band of female Tory MPs.

Within a year, William Hague appointed her to his front bench and made her shadow Education Secretary in 1999, where she struggled to lay a glove on David Blunkett.

Under Iain Duncan Smith she was switched to transport, opposing Stephen Byers as he stumbled from crisis to crisis. However, despite Tory claims yesterday that she had dealt him a series of fatal blows, she often struggled to make a decisive intervention. Mr Duncan Smith will be calculating that her approachable manner will be better used to present the friendlier face of the party. She is also likely to be popular on the gruelling round of Tory association meetings that come with her new job.

The party's first female chairman will be anxious, however, not to be stereotyped as purely a champion of "women's issues". She has said that her political advancement is the result of ability rather than her gender. And she is insisting on the title of chairman, rather than the more politically correct alternative.

Nigel Morris

The revamped shadow cabinet

Iain Duncan Smith: Leader of the Opposition
Michael Ancram: Deputy Leader of the Opposition and shadow Foreign Secretary
Michael Howard: shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
David Davis: shadow Secretary of State for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
Theresa May: party chairman
Oliver Letwin: shadow Home Secretary
Lord Strathclyde: Leader of the Opposition in the Lords
Bernard Jenkin: shadow Defence Secretary
David Willetts: shadow Work and Pensions Secretary
Dr Liam Fox: shadow Health Secretary
Tim Yeo: shadow Trade and Industry Secretary
Quentin Davies: shadow Northern Ireland Secretary
Eric Forth: shadow Leader of the House of Commons
John Whittingdale: shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
Damian Green: shadow Secretary of State for Education and Skills
Tim Collins: shadow Secretary of State for Transport
John Bercow: shadow minister for Work and Pensions
David Lidington: shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Eric Pickles: shadow Secretary of State for Local Government and the Regions
Jacqui Lait – shadow Secretary of State for Scotland
Nigel Evans: shadow Secretary of State for Wales
Caroline Spelman: shadow Secretary of State for International Development
Howard Flight: shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury
John Hayes: shadow Minister for Agriculture
David Maclean: Opposition Chief Whip (Commons)
Lord Cope of Berkeley: Opposition Chief Whip (Lords)
Bill Cash: shadow Attorney General