The new ministers

May 9, 1997

ALAN HOWARTH: PARLIAMENTARY UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EMPLOYMENT

ALAN HOWARTH'S appointment as junior employment minister completes a personal political circle begun when he resigned as Conservative further and higher education minister after the 1992 election.

Unhappiness with cuts he was expected to impose on the system - he concluded that they were going beyond efficiency to do real damage to quality - contributed strongly to a broader disillusionment with the party he had served as director of research and vice-chairman before entering parliament as an apparent Thatcherite loyalist in 1983.

In 1995 he became the first MP ever to move directly from the Conservative to Labour benches, defecting in the middle of the party conference season.

A well-received speech in the education debate at the 1996 conference signalled full acceptance.

Party leaders convinced of his symbolic significance and possible appeal to former Conservative voters were delighted just before the election was called when he won the Labour nomination in safe, industrial Newport East in Wales.

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