The Cabinet Reshuffle: Showbiz and style in revamp at Tory HQ: Selection of armed forces minister and a writer of popular television dramas gives unexpected gloss to new appointments at Smith Square

CONSERVATIVE Central Office was the focus yesterday of a large- scale - and distinctly showbiz - revamp.

Jeremy Hanley, the armed forces minister, and son of the actress Dinah Sheridan and the late Jimmy Hanley, was the big surprise of the Prime Minister's reshuffle as the chosen replacement for Sir Norman Fowler, the retiring party chairman.

But with him came Michael Dobbs, author of House of Cards, as an equally stylish deputy, and John Maples, the former Treasury minister, who lost his Lewisham West seat at the general election.

Mr Hanley, 48, faces the daunting task of restoring both Conservative morale in the country and the party's standing in the opinion polls. He will also have to continue the repair of party finances. Sir Norman had begun that task but, despite a surplus last year, the overall deficit, with an election no more than three years away, still stands at pounds 17m.

His lack of experience, however, has been bolstered by the arrival of Mr Maples, the highly regarded former Economic Secretary to the Treasury, who is now chairman and chief executive of Saatchi and Saatchi Government Communications Worldwide, and by the recruitment of Central Office veteran Mr Dobbs, both as deputies. Mr Dobbs is best known for his books, To Play the King and House of Cards - which were made into television series - in which he created the murderous chief whip Francis Urquhart. His catch phrase: 'You might think that, but I couldn't possibly comment', has even been quoted by John Major at Prime Minister's Questions.

However, Mr Dobbs's background is in advertising, where he rose to be deputy chairman of Saatchi and Saatchi, and in the run-up to the general election he was Norman Tebbit's chief of staff at Central Office during the latter's tenure as party chairman. Mr Dobbs's on-off-on experience of Central Office stretches to the 1970s when he worked in the Conservative Research Department.

Angela Rumbold, the deputy chairman in charge of candidates, remains, as do all the vice-chairmen, but Graham Bright, until yesterday the Prime Minister's parliamentary private secretary, joins them with special responsibilities for marginal seats - an interest close to his heart, given his 799 majority in Luton South.

Mr Hanley enjoyed an instant honeymoon with the media yesterday, posing affably on the steps of St John's Church in Smith Square, and being greeted by Sir Norman and the headquarters staff where he declared that he wanted 'to make politics fun again'.

The party's position in the polls, he said, 'can only go up', as he acknowledged that the job was 'a tough challenge'.

The appointment of a relative unknown to a post which Westminster speculation had offered to various Cabinet heavyweights brought jibes from Labour. Margaret Beckett, the acting party leader, said that it showed the depth of Tory unpopularity. 'John Major is unable to find a senior figure to take on what must now be the worst job in British politics.'

Lord Archer, the other best-selling Tory novelist, who had entertained hopes of the chairman's job, admitted his disappointment but declared Mr Major to have made 'a wise decision', appointing 'the best man for the job'.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam