Smith defies criticism of his team

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JOHN SMITH, the Labour leader, last night defied his parliamentary party by retaining Harriet Harman as shadow chief secretary in spite of her defeat in Wednesday's elections and doubts over her performance.

Ann Taylor also fought back against sharp criticism to hold on to her job as education shadow in a narrower than anticipated reshuffle. After his starring role at the party conference, John Prescott is rewarded with employment, the portfolio he sought with the object of turning it into a countrywide campaigning role.

The outgoing employment spokesman, Frank Dobson, takes on Mr Prescott's former transport job, boosted by a special brief for London as consolation.

In a third manifestation of Mr Smith's refusal to bow to critics, Jack Cunningham also clings on to his post among the top three jobs as shadow foreign secretary, despite his fall in the ratings.

The Shadow Cabinet newcomers, George Robertson and the veteran left-winger Joan Lestor, become respectively spokesmen for Scotland and children and the family, a job Ms Lestor held under Neil Kinnock with mixed fortunes.

The changes will come into effect after the Queen's Speech on 18 November, enabling Mr Prescott to handle the remaining stages of the rail privatisation Bill.

Although she is technically not a Shadow Cabinet member, Ms Har man's role is unchanged. She and Ms Taylor have been accused of failing to match Michael Portillo and John Patten.

With only 99 votes in the Shadow Cabinet elections, Ms Harman may have fallen victim to tactical voting by men angered by rules designed to increase women's chances.

Mr Smith's office insisted Ms Taylor was only halfway through Labour's consultation process on education policy.

Following wide speculation that Ms Taylor would be moved to national heritage, Mr Smith yielded after she reportedly dug in her heels. Mo Mowlam moves from citizen's charter to national heritage.

In one of three further non- Shadow Cabinet appointments Clare Short takes on a new, upgraded responsibility for women.

Although he fought the move, Mr Dobson declared himself delighted at his appointment, saying: 'What happens in London and the South-east is crucial.'

Michael Meacher moves from overseas development to citizens' charter, while Tom Clarke, the deposed Scottish shadow, goes to overseas development. The full parliamentary committee is:

Leader: John Smith, 55; Deputy Leader and Shadow Leader of the House: Margaret Beckett, 50; Treasury & Economic Affairs: Gordon Brown, 42; Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs: Jack Cunningham, 42; Home Affairs: Tony Blair, 40; Trade & Industry: Robin Cook, 47; Employment: John Prescott, 55; Health: David Blunkett, 46; Transport & London: Frank Dobson, 53; Social Security: Donald Dewar, 56; National Heritage: Mo Mowlam, 44; Defence: David Clark, 54; Environment (local government): Jack Straw, 47; Environmental Protection: Chris Smith, 42; Citizen's Charter: Michael Meacher, 53; Overseas Development: Tom Clarke, 52; Education: Ann Taylor, 46; Children and the Family: Joan Lestor, 61; Scotland: George Robertson, 47; Wales: Ron Davies, 55.

Posts outside Shadow Cabinet: Women: Clare Short, 47; Chief Secretary to the Treasury: Harriet Harman, 43; Food, Agriculture & Rural Affairs: Gavin Strang, 50; Northern Ireland: Kevin McNamara, 59.

(Photograph omitted)