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Cameron seeks to rejuvenate struggling government with cabinet shuffle

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron leaves the Leveson Inquiry at the High Court in London June 14, 2012.


British Prime Minister David Cameron sought to inject new energy into his struggling government with a shuffle on Tuesday, but kept unpopular finance minister George Osborne in his job.

Most of the cabinet big hitters emerged unscathed and Mr. Cameron promoted culture minister Jeremy Hunt to the health ministry. Mr. Hunt had resisted calls to resign over his closeness to Rupert Murdoch's media empire.

Paul Deighton, a top official credited with delivering a successful London Olympics and Paralympics, was given a key ministerial role in the Treasury.

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Mr. Deighton, the chief executive of Olympics organizers LOCOG, will join the House of Lords – the upper house of Britain's parliament – so he can take up his role as minister for infrastructure and economic delivery.

Addressing one of the pressing issues in his in-tray as parliament returns to work after the summer, Mr. Cameron sacked transport minister Justine Greening, an opponent of the expansion of London's Heathrow airport.

Ms. Greening becomes international development minister while former chief whip Patrick McLoughlin takes over her transport brief, as the government faces increasingly urgent calls for an expansion of airport capacity in London.

London Mayor Boris Johnson hit out at the removal of Ms. Greening, claiming it showed the government was intent on the "simply mad" policy of a new runway at Heathrow. He vowed to fight any such expansion "all the way."

In his first shuffle since the coalition government came to power two and a half years ago, Mr. Cameron sought to rejuvenate the Conservative Party element in the cabinet with an eye on the next election in 2015.

The veteran Ken Clarke, a former finance minister, was removed from the justice minister's job and given a roving role as a "wise head" in government, with Chris Grayling taking over his post.

Mr. Cameron moved a trusted lieutenant, Andrew Mitchell, from the international development brief to become chief whip, the government's chief enforcer in parliamentary business.

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It will be Mr. Mitchell's job to crush the sort of party dissent that Cameron faced last month, when a senior backbencher challenged the Prime Minister to prove whether he was "man or mouse" over the Heathrow issue.

But Mr. Cameron resisted calls to remove Mr. Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer who was roundly booed at the Olympic Stadium in east London on Monday when he presented athletics medals at the Paralympics.

Two other key members of the cabinet, Foreign Secretary William Hague and Home Secretary Theresa May, also held on to their jobs.

The Liberal Democrat junior coalition partners brought former chief secretary to the Treasury, David Laws, back into government as a junior education minister.

The well-regarded former banker was forced to quit the cabinet shortly after the 2010 election over a row about a housing agreement with his male partner.

Many observers believe he is destined for a more prominent job soon.

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The promotion of Mr. Hunt has surprised political commentators.

He had clung on to his job in April despite claims his office leaked confidential information to Mr Murdoch's News Corp. over its bid to take full control of British pay-TV giant BSkyB.

Mr. Hunt, who oversaw the London Olympics as part of his ministerial role, was branded "Minister for Murdoch" by critics, but insisted he did not pass any confidential information to News Corp. himself.

News Corp was forced to drop its £7.8-billion ($12.2 billion, 9.7 billion euro) bid for full control of the highly profitable BSkyB in July 2011 over the phone-hacking scandal at its now-defunct News of the World tabloid newspaper.

Maria Miller was promoted to Hunt's culture, sport and media job.

Mr. Cameron has vowed to "cut through the dither" and breathe new life into the recession-mired economy in this parliamentary term.

But he has rejected calls to abandon his government's policy of focusing on reining in Britain's deficit through deep public spending cuts.

A YouGov poll in the Sunday Times put support for the Conservatives at 35 per cent, centre-left Labour at 41 per cent and the Liberal Democrats at nine per cent.

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