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David Cameron Lurches To The Right In First Major Reshuffle

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CABINET RESHUFFLE

David Cameron's first major reshuffle since coming to power has seen the rise of the Tory right, a move that will please many of his backbenchers but dismay his Liberal Democrat coalition partners.

Ken Clarke, often jokingly referred to as the sixth Lib Dem in cabinet, has been sacked as justice secretary.

His removal will be welcomed by right-wing Tory backbenchers who do not like his approach to justice policy or his pro-European Union views.

Backbencher Peter Bone, a vocal right wing critic of the coalition, said he was "delighted" with the reshuffle. He told the BBC: "Most of the things I wanted have happened".

But Frances Crook, the chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, lamented Clarke's departure, describing him as a "breath of fresh air" who was not interested in "grabbing cheap headlines" such as the old cliché of "prison works".

Clarke, the biggest of Tory 'Big Beasts' who has been on the front line of politics since the 1970s, has managed to cling onto a job as minister without portfolio, but the position is a demotion.

Writing on The Huffington Post on Tuesday, Clarke's former Labour shadow, Sadiq Khan, said the move was an "embarrassing demotion" for the long serving political giant and would hurt the Conservatives in the polls.

"To appeal to a broader electorate, Cameron needs people in his Cabinet in the mould of Ken Clarke," he said.

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Another high profile casualty was Baroness Warsi, who as The Huffington Post reported first in the early hours of Tuesday morning, was removed as party chairman and replaced with former housing minister Grant Shapps.

After mulling her options overnight, Sayeeda Warsi chose to accept a more junior role as William Hague's deputy at the Foreign Office along with a minister for faith and communities, although she will still be allowed to attend Cabinet.

Baroness Warsi was unpopular with right-wing Tory backbenchers, many of whom saw her as a token appointment put in place as part of Cameron's attempt to "de-toxify" the Tory brand.

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Before the dust settled on the Cabinet shake-up, one Tory source told The Huffington Post that the reshuffle was "a lurch to the right".

The 'hang 'em and flog 'em' wing of the party will also be pleased to see the appointment of former shadow home secretary Chris Grayling as Clarke's replacement.

Former Lib Dem leader Ming Campbell told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme on Tuesday that his party woud be "be looking very closely" at what Grayling did at justice.

And gay right campaigns are likely to be dismayed at the move, as in opposition he was recorded as saying that B&B owners should have the right to exclude same-sex couples.

They will also be wary of the new equalities minister, Maria Miller, who is classed as voting moderately against Labour's gay rights legislation.

Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who remains in post and is a favourite of the right wing, rebuffed an offer by Cameron to take over at justice.

The moving of Justine Greening from the Department of Transport, to be replaced by Patrick McLaughlin, opens the door to a U-turn on the expansion of Heathrow, something demanded by backbenchers who favour it as a way to stimulate the economy.

One of the most contentious appointments was the promotion of Jeremy Hunt as health secretary, despite him almost being forced out of the culture department over his handling of the BSkyB takeover.

Andrew Lansley, whose NHS reforms caused a major headache for the prime minister, has been demoted to leader of the House of Commons.

The move sees the departure from government of the centrist Sir George Young, a One Nation Tory with views not dissimilar to Ken Clarke.

And the promotion of Theresa Villers, a well known euro-sceptic, from the transport department to Northern Ireland secretary will also please the back benches.

Tim Montgomerie, the influential editor of the Conservative Home website, said the right had been "much strengthened" by the reshuffle.

"Owen Paterson's promotion plus elevation of Grayling and Villiers confirms it's a good reshuffle for Conservative Right," he said.