UK PM promotes women, new faces in cabinet shakeup

 

Associated Press

Britain's government became younger, more female and more Euroskeptic Tuesday as Prime Minister David Cameron shook up his top team ahead of an election next year.

In the biggest Cabinet shuffle since Britain's coalition government took office in 2010, Cameron moved Philip Hammond from defense to foreign secretary. Hammond replaces William Hague, who surprised many by announcing late Monday he was becoming leader of the House of Commons and will leave Parliament next year.

Michael Fallon, formerly energy minister, was promoted to defense secretary.

Education Secretary Michael Gove, whose school reforms have angered many teachers, was moved to the post of chief whip, charged with maintaining discipline among lawmakers and promoting the government's message on TV.

Several women gained promotion, including new Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, Environment Secretary Liz Truss and Tina Stowell, new leader of the House of Lords.

The changes bring the number of female ministers to eight, among the 33 who attend Cabinet meetings. Cameron has been accused of packing his government with middle-aged, privately educated white men like himself.

Casualties of the cull included prominent centrists such as Hague, Attorney General Dominic Grieve and Kenneth Clarke, a pro-European Conservative who has served in government posts since the 1970s.

Critics accused Cameron of moving his government to the right. The opposition Labour Party branded the shuffle "the massacre of the moderates."

With an election due in May 2015, Cameron is eager to neutralize the threat from the United Kingdom Independence Party, which has been wooing Tory voters with its call for Britain to leave the European Union.

Cameron supports staying in if the bloc concedes changes that Britain wants, but has promised to hold a referendum on EU membership in 2017.

Cameron also announced his choice as Britain's representative on the European Commission. He chose Jonathan Hill, a former PR executive who was appointed to the House of Lords in 2010.

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