The Cabinet Reshuffle: New chairman has popular appeal: Jeremy Hanley seems to lack only experience in his posting, reports Patricia Wynn Davies

JEREMY HANLEY once admitted to the Commons that a television showing of The Blue Lamp, a film in which his father acted, probably helped him get elected as MP for Richmond and Barnes in 1983, with a majority of 74.

It was one of many entertaining asides as he seconded the motion on the 1990 Queen's Speech. The wit and glitter employed on that occasion, still remembered by parliamentary reporters, augur well for the task of raising the spirits of a demoralised party and helping it win key marginal seats at the next election.

Formerly a parliamentary private secretary to Chris Patten, the former party chairman, and a supporter of Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, in the 1990 leadership contest, he has firm connections on the left, but has popular appeal across a broad spectrum of the party.

How he will fare with the perhaps most important part of the job - handling detailed media interviews on policy where more than showbusiness is called for - is the big question. He has no track record in the Walden-type interview and no experience of campaigning, nor of representing the views of the party grass-roots to the Government. John Major, however, wasted little time in promoting the Mensa-qualified Mr Hanley in his first reshuffle in November 1990, first as Under Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, responsible for health, social security and agriculture, then as Minister for the Armed Forces.

The gruelling spell at the Northern Ireland Office covered the 1992 inter-party talks on the province's future. At Defence he helped handle the equally sensitive matter of the defence costs study. It is a measure of his achievements that ministers managed to retain credibility by convincing the military that correct decisions were made on priorities.

His obvious pleasure at his latest appointment is in line with his reputation as genuine, enthusiastic and personable.

A former law and tax lecturer, Mr Hanley, 48, is regarded as hardline on defence and law and order, but softer on social issues.