Britain's new Europe minister seen as a moderate

14th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain's new Europe minister, David Lidington, took office Friday in what commentators said represented an easing of Prime Minister David Cameron's scepticism towards the European Union.

Lidington is a moderate compared to many in his Conservative party and was appointed to the new coalition government late Thursday ahead of Mark Francois, a eurosceptic who was Europe spokesman when the party was in opposition.

Francois oversaw the Conservative decision to pull out of the main European People's Party to form a new anti-federalist bloc in the European Parliament, which caused consternation in many European capitals.

Lidington, 53, spent several years as advisor to the relatively pro-European former foreign secretary Douglas Hurd, and his appointment has already caused ire among lawmakers on the right of the party.

"David Lidington is a well-established Europhile. It means they've overridden Mark Francois, who comes from the euro-realist wing of the party. It's ridiculous," anti-EU lawmaker Bill Cash told the Daily Mail.

His appointment will be seen as a concession to the pro-European Liberal Democrats who now share power with the Conservatives in a coalition government.

At the same time, Lidington should be able to work well with the new foreign secretary, the eurosceptic William Hague, having worked as his aide for two years when Hague was Conservative party leader.

The new Europe minister "balances a tough rhetorical stance on Europe adopted by William Hague", said the Financial Times Friday.

His appointment "signalled an end to more than a decade of Conservative hostility to the EU", said The Guardian, while the Daily Mail said it was "an attempt to appease pro-Brussels Liberal Democrats".

Lidington worked for oil giant BP and RTZ before entering politics, and has been member of parliament for Aylesbury, northwest of London, since 1992.

Educated at Cambridge university, where he earned a doctorate in Elizabethan history, he is married and has four sons.

© 2010 AFP

0 Comments To This Article