Belfast Telegraph

MP targeted by smear is new shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

BY NOEL McADAM

The newest face in Northern Ireland politics was the victim of a vicious smear campaign by Gordon Brown's former spin doctor, Damian McBride.

Disgraced McBride, whose memoirs hit the headlines last week, tipped off newspapers about alleged "drug use, spousal abuse, alcoholism and extra-marital affairs" by MPs who caused problems for the Labour leadership.

One of the victims of McBride's political assassinations was Bury South MP Ivan Lewis, who yesterday became shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

After Mr Lewis criticised Mr Brown's tax policies, McBride leaked a story about him pestering a female aide.

"The following weekend, the News Of The World duly splashed a story – quite obviously from me – about his supposed pestering of a young civil servant who used to work in his private office," he wrote.

McBride described it as a "classic smear" after an "unhelpful intervention on tax policy".

Mr Lewis (46) replaced shadow Secretary of State Vernon Coaker, who received a major promotion to shadow defence secretary in the Labour party reshuffle.

Mr Lewis was shadow secretary for international development.

The Tories have also made a change as part of a long-anticipated reshuffle by Prime Minister David Cameron.

NIO Minister of State Mike Penning has been moved to the department of work and pensions. Insiders said it would be viewed as a lesser promotion within the Conservative coalition team.

He has been replaced by Andrew Robathan (62), the MP for South Leicestershire since 1992.

He served in the Coldstream Guards and SAS between 1974 and 1989.

From 2010 he was the minister for defence personnel, welfare and veterans, and in 2012 he was appointed minister for the armed forces. He also served as shadow minister for trade and industry from 2002 to 2005.

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore was the biggest casualty as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg wielded the knife on his Liberal Democrat ministerial team.

But the biggest shock was the appointment of his Lib Dem colleague Norman Baker –who claimed that government scientist David Kelly was murdered and that the security services staged a cover-up – to minister of state at the home office.

David Cameron has also re-shuffled his team of Conservative junior and middle ministers.

But the most eye-catching change was Mr Moore – the sole cabinet casualty – being replaced by party chief whip Alistair Carmichael.

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