Dave's babes: the women in Cameron's inner circle

The women who came to power with Tony Blair were meant to storm Westminster's male stronghold - but failed to make an impact. Now it's David Cameron's turn in the spotlight. So who are the females in his inner circle? Ed Caesar reports
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Indy Politics

SAMANTHA CAMERON, 34

Mrs Cameron is the daughter of a baronet but you wouldn't know it. As relaxed in a room full of politicians as she is in her office at Smythson (the Bond Street stationery firm where she is a director), she brings warmth to Cameron's political profile. Commentators drool over her "alternative" past at Bristol University when she hung out with the trip-hop star Tricky. She sports a dolphin tattoo on her ankle and a bump for Cameron to pat for the cameras. Unlike Cherie Blair, Samantha promises to remain apolitical. "I am not going to tell Dave what to say", she says. "But I do want to be here for him."

CATHERINE FALL, 35

Nicknamed "the gatekeeper", because of her meticulous control over Cameron's diary, Fall is handsome and discreet. Her upbringing as an ambassador's daughter was the perfect training for her role as Cameron's chief of staff. She met Cameron at Oxford, and worked with him and his great friend, the shadow Chancellor George Osborne, at the Conservative research department. Definitely a behind-the-scenes player, her brief is to keep Cameron punctual and punctilious.

CAROLINE SPELMAN MP, 47

Spelman, who has three children, has a hectic home life and a warm personality. She has been MP for Meriden for the past eight years and first contested a Tory seat in 1992, making her one of the most experienced Conservative women. In Cameron's brave new world, she has been asked to shadow the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott. Although she was tipped for a bigger job under Cameron, the new leader appreciates Spelman's Shadow Cabinet nous, and knows she could be a steadying hand on the tiller.

SOPHIE PIM AND LIZ SUGG, 28 AND 31

The Duracell bunnies of the Cameron team, Pim and Sugg are the new leader's "events organisers", charged with making sure Cameron has whatever he needs, whenever he needs it. They scored a major victory in the leadership campaign when they brought their own make-up to Cameron's interview with Jeremy Paxman. Cameron looked relaxed. Davis looked like a ghost. Job done.

GABRIELLE BERTIN, 27

Pristine, glamorous Gabby Bertin is the baby of Cameron's outfit. As Cameron's press officer, her task is to manage her boss's day-to-day wranglings with the fourth estate. She worked with Liam Fox when he was co-chairman of the party in a similarly hands-on role, and brings expertise, energy, and a level head to her position. The nature of her role necessitates a close working relationship with Cameron, and her resourcefulness on the campaign trail has turned many people's heads.

ANNE MILTON MP, 50

As a former nurse, Milton is a spokes-woman for compassionate Conservatism. The first of the 2001 intake of Conservative women MPs to back Cameron, she wins extra Brownie points for supporting him before the Cameron bandwagon was in full swing. Her victory over the Liberal Democrats in Guildford, once a true-blue seat, needs to be mirrored by Conservatives across the country if Cameron is to lead his party back to power.

NADINE DORRIES, 47

Like her Girls Aloud namesake, the new MP for Mid-Bedfordshire isn't shy of a fake tan. She also has a peculiarly niche role in making sure the Cameron roadshow runs smoothly. It was reported that at Wednesday's PMQ showdown between Blair and Cameron, Dorries was tasked with sitting young, photogenic MPs behind the new leader.

Some older, less photogenic MPs were enraged. One such duffer, the elderly Eric Forth, obstinately plonked himself directly behind Cameron where he remained for the debate.

THERESA VILLIERS MP, 37

Villiers has had a stellar year. Elected as MP for Chipping Barnet, she then backed Cameron from the outset, and now has her reward: a place in his Shadow Cabinet. As a former MEP (whose quest to save the Jammy Dodger from EU regulations went down in political folklore) she learnt how to cut through the European Parliament's mountainous red tape. Given the male-dominated composition of Cameron's inner circle, her new appointment as shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury is a shrewd one; she is talented, industrious, and, most importantly, a woman.

FIONA MELVILLE, 29

Another twenty-something Cameroon with star quality, Melville does the ugly things well. During Cameron's successful campaign for leadership, she was a key link between the candidate and his public. She excelled, doing nuts and bolts work such as dealing with correspondence, phone canvassing, and making sure that Cameron knew the mood of the electorate. Now Cameron is leader, Melville will continue to bat for him from inside Conservative Central Office.

RACHEL WHETSTONE, 37

"Queen of the Notting Hill Set" and sometime lover of Cameron's strategist Steve Hilton, Whetstone was instrumental in persuading Cameron to run for leader. Like many of his closest political friends, she is another graduate of the Conservative research department. But she really earned her spurs as Michael Howard's political secretary, where her reputation as a kingmaker was well justified. It is said she persuaded Howard to promote Cameron and Osborne to the front bench. Although, due to a relationship with one of Cameron's extended family, she no longer has an official role in the Cameron camp, she won't be gone long.

ANJI HUNTER, 50

Once a "gatekeeper" for Blair, Hunter is a shrewd political operator who spotted Cameron as the future of the party - "the heir to Blair" - before many Conservatives. Although a Labour supporter by inclination, Hunter might well have an advisory role to play in Cameron's bid for the political centre ground. She was introduced to Cameron through her partner, Adam Boulton, political editor at Sky News, and the power-broking couple have been seen dining with the Camerons since.

ALICE THOMSON, 38

A feisty political commentator and feature writer for The Daily Telegraph, Thomson is fighting it out with Bruce Anderson to be Cameron's biggest cheerleader in the press. She is a key member of his "Notting Hill Set", and socialises with Cameron when she's not writing misty paeans to his virtues. Thomson's profile has inevitably been raised as a result of Cameron romping home in the leadership election.

JACQUI LAIT MP, 57

Nicknamed "Madame Whiplash" after she became as the first appointed female Conservative whip in 1996, Lait is a Scot not to be trifled with. An old-timer who knows all the party's big beasts, Lait was linked with various contenders in the recent leadership election, Malcolm Rifkind, Ken Clarke, and, ultimately, David Cameron.

Her flip-flopping on this issue belies a strong political career: she has served in the shadow cabinet as Scottish spokeswoman and was shadow Home Secretary. She represents the old heart of the party, and Conservative women. Cameron needs her.

MARIA MILLER MP, 41

One of the 2005 intake of MPs to make an impression in the few months since the general election, Miller was an early Cameron supporter. Many tipped her to imitate the meteoric rise of Theresa

Villiers, but there was no Shadow Cabinet post this time. The know-how she has exhibited while asking questions in the House, and in her constituency dealings, was fostered in her previous career as a marketing consultant. Cameron is said to be a fan of hers, so maybe a Shadow Cabinet post will be hers next time.

THERESA MAY MP, 49

She of the Jimmy Choos and the vampiric collars is, perhaps, the best-known female face in the Tory Party. "It is a little-known fact," said May at a recent Women2Win event, "that there are more men in the Shadow Cabinet called David than there are women." After Thursday's reshuffle, that is still the case: Davids outnumber women five to four. May has been the MP for Maidenhead since 1997, and has served in several roles, including chairman of the party. She is now shadow Commons leader. May famously told the party conference they were seen as "the nasty party". Cameron needs her experience, and so will need to keep her onside.

CHERYL GILLAN MP, 53

Cameron has drawn on Cheryl Gillan's services because she has oodles of experience, another way of saying she has been knocking about for years. She held government office under John Major, who appointed her junior employment minister in 1995. Since then, though, she has hardly set the Commons on fire. Her new job as shadow Welsh Secretary is a surprise return to frontline action and could mark Gillan's political renaissance.

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