Kennedy to revamp health and education in reshuffle

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Indy Politics

Charles Kennedy is preparing a swift reshuffle this week to refresh his team before beginning a wide-ranging policy review.

Charles Kennedy is preparing a swift reshuffle this week to refresh his team before beginning a wide-ranging policy review.

The Liberal Democrat leader is planning to move his spokesmen for health, Paul Burstow, and education, Phil Willis, to other jobs. Mr Willis, a former headteacher who is rated a good media performer, is being tipped for the role of chief whip after requesting a move after several years in the job.

Mr Burstow is expected to move from health, a post he took on in the last reshuffle, after the party was criticised for failing to present a comprehensive health package at the election.

Steve Webb, the pensions spokesman, is the leading contender to take on the health portfolio after he framed a successful set of policies for older people which proved popular at the election. But he is also believed to have said he would take on education if asked.

Sir Menzies Campbell will stay as foreign affairs spokesman and deputy leader of the party while Vince Cable, who has been credited with framing a coherent and solid economic policy for the party, will remain Treasury spokesman.

Mr Kennedy will bring in Nick Clegg, the former MEP who only entered the Commons this week, to spearhead the Liberal Democrat push for a "yes" vote on the EU constitution.

Norman Lamb, who has until now stayed off the Liberal Democrat top table to concentrate on defending his perilously small majority in North Norfolk, is likely to be promoted after consolidating his seat. He is one of the party's most able MPs.

The other name tipped for promotion is David Laws, the former City banker, who is on the right of the party and is now in the Treasury team.

Mr Kennedy's decision to promote Mr Laws, who was behind the controversial "Orange Book" that argued the party should reclaim "liberalism", shows that Mr Kennedy wants to ensure both wings of the party are represented.

Mark Oaten is expected to remain as home affairs spokesman after successfully raising the party profile on terrorism and crime issues, and spearheading opposition to ID cards. Norman Baker, who has won awards for his role in Parliament, is expected to stay as environment spokesman.

Mr Kennedy is also to revamp the way party policy is made, to involve party members in a system that could echo Labour's National Policy Forum. A wide-ranging policy review is expected to involve all sections of the party, and could lead to a fresh rethink of policy on tax. The review is expected to focus on health, education and council tax, three areas on which the party faced a battering during the election.

Mr Kennedy also wants to stop the party conference holding MPs to ransom by passing policy motions on "fringe" issues such as pornography, rights for goldfish and cannabis decriminalisation, which they then have to defend.

Sarah Teather, the Brent East by-election victor who fought off a stiff Labour challenge at the election, is expected to be rewarded with her first spokesmanship.

Ed Davey, who was in charge of the party's council tax policy, may be moved to another role in Mr Kennedy's top team.