The Cabinet Reshuffle: Thatcherite takes reins in Wales: John Redwood

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The Independent Online
THE RAPID rise of John Redwood to the Cabinet will give free rein in Wales to one of the most dedicated Thatcherite ministers, and his appointment provoked protests from Welsh Nationalist and Labour MPs, writes Colin Brown.

John Major had been urged by Conservative right-wingers to ensure that the balance of the Cabinet was tilted more to the right. By promoting Mr Redwood, the Prime Minister has shown he was listening.

Sir Norman Fowler, the Conservative Party chairman, would have preferred the wetter Stephen Dorrell, a Treasury minister, to go into the Cabinet before Mr Redwood. But Kenneth Clarke's promotion, upsetting the right, ensured the vacancy went to Mr Redwood.

Mr Redwood, 41, a banker and industrialist, is a former head of Baroness Thatcher's Downing Street policy unit. He was elected MP for Wokingham in 1987. He dismissed as 'nonsense' protests including a warning by Ieuan Wyn Jones, the Plaid Cymru MP, that his zeal for privatisation 'will go down like a rat sandwich'.

He said: 'I would ask the Welsh people to judge me by what I say and what I have done in the last year in the city areas of England and in local government. Far from being a hatchet man, I have been promoting the legitimate interests of local government and building partnerships with Labour local authorities, the business community and investors. That is exactly the kind of thing I intend to be doing in Wales.'

A fellow of All Souls, Mr Redwood is one of the brightest members of the Government. His appointment will be seen as a sharp departure from wet predecessors, David Hunt and Lord Walker. But he is likely to continue the work they started.