Return of the `East Anglia mafia'

CONSERVATIVE leader David Cameron has completed his team of shadow spokesmen, promoting a number of East Anglian MPs to key roles as the party overhauls its policies in an effort to win the next General Election.

By Graham Dines

CONSERVATIVE leader David Cameron has completed his team of shadow spokesmen, promoting a number of East Anglian MPs to key roles as the party overhauls its policies in an effort to win the next General Election.

The big winner is David Ruffley, MP for Bury St Edmunds since 1997, who becomes number two in the works and pensions team headed by Shadow Secretary of State Philip Hammond.

Mr Cameron has made it clear that he wants to lead a “compassionate Conservative” party and welfare reform is seen as an integral part of this philosophy.


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Mr Ruffley, who served as Treasury whip in Michael Howard's term as opposition leader, said: “We need policies which help those most in need without damaging the incentive to work.

“The Government wants to take an axe to certain benefits, but this will lead to real hardship. My task is to identify reforms which will deliver money to those who need it.”

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Another member of the opposition works and pensions team will be Anne McIntosh, MP for the Vale of York, who was Euro MP for Essex North East between 1989-94 and Essex North and Suffolk South 1994-99.

Following last week's announcement that Essex North MP Bernard Jenkin is to be a Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party in charge of candidates' selection, Mr Cameron has appointed Eric Pickles (MP for Brentwood and Ongar) as another Deputy Chairman in addition to his role as Shadow Local Government Minister.

Mr Pickles, a former Leader of Bradford City Council in West Yorkshire, who will be in charge of the Tory strategy for local government elections, said he looked forward to “developing the policies and campaigns which will lead to the Conservative Party being elected to form the next Government.”

Chelmsford West MP Simon Burns moves from junior health spokesman to the Whips office, where he will oversee the work of the junior whips. Mark Francois, whose Rayleigh constituency covers part of the borough of Chelmsford, stays in the health team.

Although Richard Spring, MP for Suffolk West, leaves the shadow team, he is expected in the New Year to be appointed to a senior position at Conservative Central Office where he will take the leading role in the Tory Party's liaison with financial and City institutions.

Jim Paice, MP for Cambridgeshire South-East, remains Shadow Minister for Agriculture. Mr Paice, 56, a former Suffolk farmer, was a member of Suffolk Coastal district council from 1976 until 1987 and its Chairman in 1982-3 and held various junior ministerial appointments in John Major's government.

Mid Norfolk MP Keith Simpson remains a foreign affairs spokesman.

Last week, Mr Cameron appointed Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer, former Secretary of State for the Environment, to his policy commission on the environment. South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo leaves the Tory front bench at his own request.

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