The new Labour babies: faces to watch in Blair's line-up

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Indy Politics
Barbara Roche, a barrister and close friend of Tony Blair's wife, has been appointed as the understudy to Margaret Beckett, shadow President of the Board of Trade. One of the modern breed of Labour MPs, she will help spearhead the continuing charm offensive in the boardrooms. Mrs Roche, 41, was Mrs Beckett's PPS when Mrs Beckett acted as leader after John Smith's death. She is firmly in the Blairite centre, and a committed moderniser.

Peter Hain, 45, MP for Neath (whip), is proof that Tony Blair does not intend to exclude the left entirely from the front bench - but also that left-wingers must prove they are clever and constructive. The anti-apartheid campaigner and chairman of the Young Liberals turned Tribunite "soft left" has not shrunk from criticising the Labour leader. He avoided adopting the mantle of successor to Tony Benn, with the result that Mr Blair believes he has much to offer.

Tessa Jowell, MP for Dulwich, south London, is a star of the 1992 intake and takes women's portfolio. A super-presentable front-line moderniser, she is very bright with a formidable knowledge of her previous health brief. She is rated highly by Tory whips, which is a sure test. A former senior social worker specialising in community care at senior level and an ex-deputy director of MIND, the mental health charity, she is definitely future Cabinet material.

Stephen Byers, MP for Wallsend, becomes a member of the all-important education team after mightily impressing Tony Blair in the whips' office. A former law lecturer, he had a hard time securing selection for a safe seat in the strife-ridden early 1980s, mainly because he did not have enough backing from the big manual unions necessary in the North-east. Expert user of parliamentary questions to ferret out information damaging to the Tories.

Helen Liddell, 44, MP for Monklands East (Scottish Affairs) leapt from victory in a difficult by-election racked by charges of council nepotism (which she strenuously criticised) ranks as an outstanding promotion. Mr Blair, it is said, rates her very, very highly. At this year's Scottish Labour Party conference she made what he viewed as one of the best speeches ever in favour of reforming Clause IV. Has what one aide called "balls of steel".

John Denham, 42, MP for Southampton Itchen (Social Security), is one of a small but key group of south of England Labour MPs, and one with a majority of just 551 in a three-way marginal. He has experience of fighting Liberal Democrats as well as Tories and did sterling work during last year's Eastleigh by-election when Labour confounded sceptics and came second. An early flirtation with Trotskyism long outgrown, he is a convinced moderniser.

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