Howard accused of sharp move to right as Redwood returns

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Indy Politics

Michael Howard was accused of moving sharply to the right last night as he promoted John Redwood to the Shadow Cabinet and lost two Tory modernisers from the front bench.

Michael Howard was accused of moving sharply to the right last night as he promoted John Redwood to the Shadow Cabinet and lost two Tory modernisers from the front bench.

One senior Tory MP described the changes as "a ferocious lurch to the right" as Mr Redwood, the former leadership contender and arch Eurosceptic, was brought in as shadow Secretary of State for Deregulation within an expanded Shadow Cabinet.

Two figures on the Conservative left, John Bercow and Damian Green, also left the front bench in a surprise move that will shock the modernising Tories and threatens to reopen internal feuds over the direction of the party.

Mr Bercow, the former shadow international development secretary, and Damian Green, the former shadow transport secretary, turned down offers of alternative jobs to return to the back benches. Mr Green said he wanted to develop ideas "which will make us attractive to a wider section of the electorate".

Mr Bercow has been sharply criticised by Mr Howard's inner circle for demanding more cash for international development and arguing the Tories should become a more caring party.

The departure of the two men from the front bench will be seen as a victory for Liam Fox, the party chairman, and a blow to the Conservative left.

Mr Howard also promoted two members of the so-called "Notting Hill set". David Cameron, Mr Howard's trusted head of policy, joins the Shadow Cabinet, while George Osborne is promoted to shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Nicholas Soames, the shadow Defence Secretary, is also promoted to the Shadow Cabinet. In other changes Alan Duncan is promoted to shadow International Development Secretary, John Whittingdale moves from agriculture to shadow Culture Secretary, while Julie Kirkbride loses the culture brief to join the party's foreign affairs team.

Mr Howard hailed the moves as "strengthening the Conservative team in the run-up to the general election" while aides insisted the changes did not represent a shift to the right.

The Tory changes were brought forward from today to inflict maximum embarrassment on the Prime Minister. Senior Tory figures insisted Mr Howard did not need to "ask permission" to hold his reshuffle, contrasting his decisive changes with the drawn-out pains of Mr Blair's Cabinet changes.

Mr Howard said: "While the endless bickering between the Prime Minister and his Chancellor has split the Labour Party and paralysed the Government, a united Conservative Party is continuing to get on with the job."

THE NEW SHADOW CABINET

Leader: Michael Howard

Shadow secretary of state for international development, shadow foreign secretary and deputy leader: Michael Ancram

Leader in the Lords: Lord Strathclyde

Shadow chancellor: Oliver Letwin

Shadow education secretary: Tim Collins

Shadow health secretary: Andrew Lansley

Shadow home secretary: David Davis

Shadow environment and transport secretary: Tim Yeo

Shadow family secretary: Theresa May

Shadow local and devolved government secretary: Caroline Spelman

Shadow work and pensions secretary: David Willetts

Party co-chairman: Liam Fox

Party co-chairman: Lord Saatchi

Opposition Chief Whip: Maclean

* Shadow deregulation secretary: John Redwood

* Shadow defence secretary: Nicholas Soames

* Head of policy coordination: David Cameron.

* denotes change

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