Midlands MP Caroline Spelman has defied predictions to keep a place in David Cameron’s shadow cabinet, as an inquiry into claims she abused her Parliamentary allowance continues.
The Meriden MP lost her post as party chairman but began a new role as shadow local government secretary, as Mr Cameron reshuffled.
It followed speculation she would be sacked, after claims she used taxpayers’ money to pay her nanny when she became an MP.
She was moved sideways instead, in a reshuffle which saw former chancellor Ken Clarke rejoin front-line British politics as shadow business secretary.
Mr Clarke, who served as home, education and health secretaries, will help oversee the Conservative response to the downturn.
Eric Pickles, former local government minister, became party chairman, in a straight swap with Mrs Spelman.
Senior Conservatives said the decision to keep Mrs Spelman in the shadow cabinet demonstrated Mr Cameron continued to have confidence in her.
They admitted she has been moved into a lower-profile role partly because of the continuing inquiry.
It had become difficult for her to get the party’s message across because she was asked about the investigation every time she gave an interview.
The Parliamentary commissioner for standards, the Commons watchdog, is investigating Mrs Spelman after she took the unusual step of asking for an inquiry to clear her name.
It followed claims she misused her parliamentary allowance to pay nanny Tina Haynes.
According to Mrs Spelman, Ms Haynes was paid from her parliamentary allowance for secretarial work, which is standard practice. However, some media reports have suggested she did very little secretarial work.
It had been rumoured for months that Mr Cameron intended to sack the Meriden MP, but Conservative sources said she continued to have his full support.
This would change only if the inquiry found she had done something wrong, sources said.
Mrs Spelman said she was looking forward to returning to the role of shadow local government secretary, a position she previously held between 2004 and 2007.
She said: “It is a brief I know very well. Last time I was in this position we enjoyed a great deal of success in local government elections.”
Birmingham MP Andrew Mitchell (Con Sutton Coldfield) will continue as shadow international development secretary and shadow minister for Birmingham.
Mr Clarke’s role as shadow business secretary means he replaced Alan Duncan, who became shadow leader of the Commons. Other changes included the appointment of Chris Grayling, the former shadow work and pensions secretary, as shadow home secretary.
He replaced Dominic Grieve, who became shadow justice secretary.
Announcing the changes, Mr Cameron said he now had the “strongest possible shadow cabinet” ready for a General Election.
“With Ken Clarke’s arrival, we now have the best economic team,” he said. “With the other changes I have made today, we have combined fresh thinking with experience, hope and change with stability and common sense.”