Tory Reshuffle : Howard Plays His Joker

George Osborne, the 33-year-old heir to a wallpaper fortune, is to face off against Gordon Brown – a chance for him to shine or fall flat on his face. Doc Fox becomes shadow foreign secretary and David Cameron gets education. Rifkind is up against Blunkett as work and pensions spokesman.

Michael Ancram goes to defence, ‘Two-Brains’ Willetts, gets to shadow the new government department of productivity, energy and industry (the most unlikely name for a department of the civil service). Alan Duncan goes to transport.

Francis Maude becomes party chairman – a position that will be handy for the modernisers, given that Francis is the moderniser par excellence. It will be interesting to see if C-Change (the provisional wing of Nicholas Boles’ Policy Exchange think tank) lines up differently to CWF in the leadership battle for the hearts and minds of the grassroots. Maude was involved with the establishment of Policy Exchange which has a Portillista agenda, and was not a million miles away from the wielders of the knives that were stuck in IDS’ back. CWF has a more Thatcherite / libertarian agenda. If ‘policy not personality’ is important, these pressure groups will be important. Guido suspects it will superficially be about policy and message, but really about personality and style.

Howard has adroitly given a number of front-runners a chance to shine. Big money went on the absent Hague today at the bookies – does somebody know something? David Davis is favourite, followed in order by Hague(?), David Cameron, Fox, Rifkind, Lansley, Osborne, Yeo, Letwin (rumoured in the City to be off back to Rothschilds). Teasy May, Ken Clarke, Duncan, Willets, Redwood, Damian Green, Ancram and Boris Johnson make up the rear.




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