MPs protest over Duncan Smith's right-wing team

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Indy Politics

Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative leader, was facing a backlash yesterday from moderate Tory MPs furious over the right-wing complexion of his new frontbench team.

They were incensed by the appointments of Bill Cash, a hardline Eurosceptic, as shadow Attorney General, and of the maverick right-winger Eric Forth as shadow Leader of the Commons.

In a further controversial move, Laurence Robertson, the Tewkesbury MP forced to apologise during the election campaign for remarks on race, was named as a Tory whip.

Mr Duncan Smith insisted he had assembled a line-up that reflected the spectrum of views within the party. But Ian Taylor, the MP for Esher and Walton, who was not offered a post but would have been in Kenneth Clarke's Shadow Cabinet if he had become leader, said: "The membership of the Shadow Cabinet will not make it easier to show we are a pragmatic party ready to appeal to a wider audience, which is what I still hope Iain Duncan Smith intends to do. I thought he did not wish to be obsessed with Europe. With Bill Cash on his front bench, nothing else will be discussed."

Another pro-European Tory MP said: "We are astonished and appalled by the make-up of the frontbench team. The appointment of Bill Cash is the final proof that the lunatics have taken over the asylum." A fellow backbencher complained that all the key posts in the party had been awarded to MPs on the right. He said: "Duncan Smith received 54 votes from the 166 members of the parliamentary party. Now less than one-third of the party is trying to run the whole party. Grief will follow."

Mr Duncan Smith said his front bench included supporters of all four defeated leadership contenders. He said his offer to allow pro-single currency MPs the freedom to campaign in a single currency referendum meant the European issue was "clear and settled" and they could concentrate on other policy areas.

The Tory leader put the finishing touches to his shadow Cabinet yesterday by making Ann Winterton, the long- serving MP for Congleton, shadow Minister for Agriculture and James Clappison, MP for Hertsmere, shadow Minister for Work.