Clegg enlists leadership rival Huhne in reshuffle

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Indy Politics

The defeated Liberal Democrat leadership contender Chris Huhne has been handed a prize front-bench job after coming within a whisker of overhauling the victor, Nick Clegg.

Mr Huhne, who was the leadership runner-up by just 511 votes, after more than 40,000 votes were cast, was promoted from the environment brief to become the party's home affairs spokesman Mr Clegg's old job and a key role in his new six-strong inner circle.

Mr Clegg's predecessor, Sir Menzies Campbell, was given the role of conducting a review of Britain's armed forces, while Charles Kennedy will lead campaigns on European issues.

Mr Clegg announced a 32-strong "cabinet", but appointed six key figures to manage the economy, home affairs, foreign affairs, public services, the environment, and families.

Vince Cable, who won plaudits during a strong spell as the party's acting leader, remains Mr Clegg's deputy and keeps his role as the party's Treasury spokesman, which he has used to pioneer green tax proposals and harry the Government over the Northern Rock crisis.

Mr Huhne, who ran an aggressive, high-profile campaign on Labour's proxy donor affair during the leadership election, will spearhead the party's fight against the Government's anti-terror laws and ID cards, issues which Mr Clegg has placed at the heart of the Liberal Democrats' appeal to voters.

Mr Clegg has faced claims that his leadership campaign was lacklustre and has vowed to hit the ground running in the new year. Yesterday's swift reshuffle rewarded close allies with roles in key policy areas.

Ed Davey, the former chief of staff to Sir Menzies, is given the foreign affairs brief, overseeing defence and international development. David Laws, who was a key member of the "Orange Book" group of economic liberals in the party, retains his children and schools brief, but becomes the party's public services supremo.

Steve Webb, a leading figure on the left of the party, is promoted from his role writing the party's election manifesto to a job overseeing the party's environment policy. Norman Baker is given the transport brief and Tim Farron gets a new job as the party's countryside spokesman.

Susan Kramer, the Richmond MP and former London mayoral candidate, gets a job as families spokesman.

Allies of Mr Clegg said he wanted to focus the party on campaigning outside Westminster and concentrating on the concerns of families.

Julia Goldsworthy, the party's high-flying former Treasury number two, is given the job of shadowing the Department for Communities and Local Government, while Danny Alexander, the former voice of the Britain in Europe Campaign, is given a powerful new role as Mr Clegg's chief of staff, charged with preparing the party's next general election manifesto.

Lynne Featherstone, who ran Mr Huhne's leadership campaign, becomes youth and equality spokesman. New faces in the senior frontbench team include David Howarth, as "shadow" solicitor general, Stephen Williams as innovation, universities and skills spokesman, and Willie Rennie as the chair of parliamentary campaigns.

Mr Clegg has expanded his "cabinet" from 23 to 30, almost half the parliamentary party. Overall, 29 of the Lib Dems' 63 MPs have places in the senior front- bench team.

Mr Clegg said: "I am hugely excited by the team I am announcing today. It demonstrates the vast talent in the Liberal Democrat party. I think this team is the strongest political team in British politics today. I look forward to working with them to take forward my agenda and my messages to engage with the real concerns of the public."

Lib Dems to watch

Danny Alexander

The MP, who once ran the Britain in Europe group, will chair the Lib Dems' manifesto group and act as Nick Clegg's chief of staff. The35-year-old is known for campaigns against Tesco.

Julia Goldsworthy

The 29-year-old high flyer is tipped as a future leader. Best known for combining Treasury duties with a role on reality TV show The Games.

Tim Farron

Former aide to Sir Menzies Campbell, now countryside supremo. The 37-year-old is a Christian, fellwalker and Blackburn Rovers fan.