Cameron reshuffle sees lurch to right

By Andrew Grice, Nigel Morris

British Prime Minister David Cameron shifted the balance of his Government to the right yesterday in his first major reshuffle as he promoted Tory traditionalists and moved to weaken the influence of the Liberal Democrats inside the Coalition.

Conservative MPs hailed what some called "an anti-Lib Dem reshuffle" as Cameron bolstered his own position with his rebellious backbenchers and sought to give the Government's policies a tougher edge.

Right-wingers welcomed the appointment of Chris Grayling as Justice Secretary in place of the more liberal Kenneth Clarke, and Owen Paterson, a climate change sceptic, as Environment Secretary, a move which called into question Cameron's pledge to head the "greenest government ever".

Clarke was demoted to Minister without Portfolio, acting as a "wise head", but government sources denied he would take on an economic brief to dilute the power of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne. In an attempt to push Lib Dem Vince Cable into a more pro-business stance to boost growth, Michael Fallon, the deputy Tory chairman, was installed at the Business Department.

The tilt to the right caused tension between the two coalition partners. Although Cameron discussed the reshuffle with Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister was powerless to halt the Tory appointments.

Senior Liberal Democrats warned they would, if necessary, veto hardline policies proposed by the incoming ministers. They insisted the environment would also remain a top priority. One senior Liberal Democrat source said: "We are proud we are anchoring this Government in the centre ground and we will continue to do so. We are still governed by the Coalition Agreement. All decisions will still have to be joint decisions."

The Prime Minister paved the way for an eventual u-turn over plans for a third runway at Heathrow by ousting the Transport Secretary, Justine Greening, who opposed expansion at the airport as MP for Putney. She was demoted to International Development.

Cameron tried to exploit the Olympics "feelgood factor" by making Paul Deighton, chief executive of the organising committee Locog, a peer and Treasury minister with a brief to transform the nation's infrastructure and drive growth.

The Prime Minister did not always get his own way. Iain Duncan Smith refused to leave the Department of Work and Pensions, where he wants to fight Osborne's plans for £10 billion ($20 billion) of further cuts in welfare spending.

But Cameron allies claimed he had showed strong leadership in a decisive reshuffle. Andrew Lansley paid the price for failing to "sell" his NHS reforms, with a demotion to Leader of the Commons. Jeremy Hunt was promoted to Health Secretary, a remarkable comeback after he almost lost his Culture post earlier this year over his close links with Rupert Murdoch's empire.

The Prime Minister sacked Caroline Spelman and Cheryl Gillan and ousted Baroness Warsi as Tory chairman against her wishes. She was replaced by Grant Shapps and taken on as a "senior minister" at the Foreign Office and in charge of faith and communities.

Grayling's arrival at the Ministry of Justice signals a more hard-line approach to law and order.

Clarke's departure removes a key roadblock to replacing the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights, which was strongly resisted by the former Justice Secretary, but widely supported by senior Conservatives.

- Independent

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