In the news: Tim Collins

June 18, 2004

Tim Collins is one of a very rare breed of politician - a Tory MP elected to the Commons for the first time in the Labour landslide of 1997. And he is an avid Dr Who fan.

Since his election to the Westmorland and Lonsdale seat, Mr Collins has impressed party leaders, and this week he was rewarded by Conservative leader Michael Howard with promotion to the post of shadow education secretary.

As a former special adviser to Mr Howard and a supporter of his bid for the party leadership in 1997 and 2003, Mr Collins is clearly a trusted lieutenant.

Tim Yeo, whose brief had been education and health, was moved sideways to environment. The two briefs have been split so that Mr Collins, who was a shadow education minister, takes charge of the education brief while Andrew Lansley becomes shadow health secretary.

Mr Collins, 40, was described by The Times as "another right-wing Eurosceptic party apparatchik-turned-MP", a reference to his former roles as Mr Howard's adviser, press secretary to John Major and member of the No 10 policy unit.

One of Mr Collins' main tasks will be to come up with a credible higher education policy. This may prove difficult, not least because many in the Conservative Party believe the Government has appropriated the Tories' instinctive policy to make students pay for their higher education through top-up fees.

Mr Collins is a competent Commons performer and once taunted Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, with claims that Labour had stolen its education policies from the Tories. He shouted: "Let me make clear that this fox has not just been shot, it has been shelled, napalmed and obliterated!"

He comes from a farming family and was educated at the London School of Economics and King's College London. He was a business consultant before going to work for the Conservative Party.

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