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David Cameron has rewarded friends and punished enemies in assembling

Last Updated: Friday, December 3rd, 2010

The Government is poised between passing its first six months ‐ it did so on November 11 ‐ and reaching its first Christmas. This is as good a time as any to
scrutinise the Conservative front bench below Cabinet level ‐ who David Cameron appointed as Ministers last spring, and what his team says both about
him and the Government he’s trying to lead.

Three points stand out ‐

First, this is a Government that leans to the left of the Party’s centre.
The Conservative Parliamentary Party as a whole leans to the right of it. Hard
evidence of this claim, suggested by Conservative Intelligence’s own pre‐general
election analysis, has been provided by the election of Graham Brady, the right’s
candidate, to the Chairmanship of the backbench 1922 committee, by the right’s
victory in the rest of the ’22 committee elections, and by the election of three
right‐of‐party‐centre MPs to the Party Board.

The Ministerial teams, however, lean to the left‐of‐party‐centre. Greg Barker
(Climate Change), Henry Bellingham (Foreign Office), Richard Benyon
(Environment), Hugh Robertson (Culture, Media and Sport), Hugo Swire
(Northern Ireland) and Ed Vaizey (Culture, Media and Sport) ‐ all are, like
Cameron, well‐heeled One Nation types. Then there’s Alistair Burt (Foreign
Office), Edward Garnier (Solicitor General), Damian Green (Home Office),
Dominic Grieve (Attorney General), Nick Hurd (Cabinet Office), David Lidington
(Foreign Office), all also men of the pragmatic party centre‐left. There are
counter‐balancing appointments from the right, of course, but the general
character of the Conservative Ministerial appointments is unmistakable.

A significant proportion of the Parliamentary Private Secretary appointments
from the new Conservative generation of MPs are seen to be from the left of
Party centre, such as Nick Boles, Mary Macleod, Esther McVey, David Rutley and
Anna Soubry.

Second, Cameron has rewarded his friends.

Barker and Swire were seen as close colleagues of Cameron during the earlier
part of the last Parliament. Barker had personal difficulties during it, and Swire
was sacked by Cameron as Shadow Culture Secretary: he was held to be not up to
the job. It’s improbable that either will make the Cabinet, but both are now
Ministers of State ‐ Barker at the Climate Change Department, Swire as Security
Minister at Northern Ireland.

Barker’s an environmental specialist, and Swire is now a prominent cog in the
world of Northern Ireland politics. So both have reason to be pleased with their
roles. Rightly or wrongly, Bellingham and Benyon are also seen to be friends of
the Prime Minister. Vaizey worked alongside Cameron when the latter served as
a researcher in the Conservative Research Department.

Third, Cameron has punished ‐ or at least not forgiven ‐ his enemies.

For all his pleasant temperament and winning manner, the Prime Minister has an
unforgiving streak. Graham Brady, Mark Field, Bernard Jenkin and Patrick
Mercer are among the MPs who have, in one way or another, crossed or
displeased him. None of them has returned to the front bench and gained
Ministerial office. Brady is one of the very few Westminster politicians to have
taken Cameron on and seen him off, winning the 1922 Chairmanship in the face
of opposition from the Prime Minister, who wanted to merge the committee with
his front bench ‐ partly to ensure that Brady wasn’t elected. The move was seen
off. (Damian Green is another: he beat Cameron to win the Conservative
nomination for Ashford before the 1997 election.)

The Conservative front bench has a certain tone. Its members are, on the whole,
public‐spirited, decent, hard‐working, pragmatic, natural members of the
governing class, who however bright are not usually inclined to pursue ideas for
the sake of them. They tend to be the kind of people Cameron trusts, and his
core team ‐ Ed Llewellyn (Chief of Staff), Steve Hilton (Head of Strategy), Andrew
Feldman (Co‐Party Chairman), Kate Fall ‐ are, similarly, people he feels
comfortable with and has known for years. They set the tone for the
Government. The charge of elitism has perils for him, and this approach to
appointments is thus risky.

Paul Goodman

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE LAST WEEK ON CONSERVATIVEHOME

Skills Minister John Hayes MP wrote about his plan to deliver 75,000 more
apprenticeships: “This Government will create more apprenticeships than
modern Britain has ever seen ‐ a rise of 75,000 during this Parliament ‐ and not
just in the traditional craft sectors but in the new crafts too, such as advanced
engineering; IT; the creative industries; and financial services.” More via
http://j.mp/f6ppMR

On the Parliament blog we summarized Andrew Lansley’s public health
White Paper: “About a third of all cases of circulatory disease, half of all cases of
vascular dementia and many cancers could be avoided by reducing smoking,
improving diet and increasing physical activity. We need to do better, and we
won’t make progress if public health continues to be seen just in terms of NHS
provision and of state interventions. Two‐thirds of our potential impact on life
expectancy depends on issues outside health care.” More via
http://j.mp/hWfoUc

Eamonn Butler on the scale of Britain’s debt problem: “[Imagine if] all post‐
2015 growth goes into paying off our debts. The cheery conclusion is that in
time, we could actually pay off the national debt. The chilling conclusion is that
even with restraint on that scale, it wouldn’t be paid off until 2041, so there’s
only an evens chance that I would live to see it.” More via http://j.mp/fj6IQk

Is Osborne really more influential than Cameron? Tim Montgomerie
discussed a GQ awards list suggesting he was: “Osborne’s other key asset is his
team. He has built an incredibly loyal, able kitchen cabinet (notably Greg Hands,
the hugely‐tipped Rupert Harrison and Ramesh Chhabra) and cadre of ministers
‐ within the Treasury and beyond. The public perception is, of course, that
Cameron is the warm, friendly one and public perceptions rule in politics. The
truth is that, on a personal level, Osborne is the chattier, more accessible of the
two men who have led the Conservative Party since 2005. He also, says one
Cabinet minister, is “a much, much, much better listener”.” More via:
http://j.mp/hvvmN1

Within seven thoughts on UK competitiveness Tim Montgomerie writes:
“For the fourth time in two months London’s tube workers begin a 24 hour strike
today. As spending cuts bite strikes are likely to multiply. The British economy
should not be held hostage by the unions unless strike action is supported by
majorities, or at least significant pluralities, of the relevant workforces.

Consideration should also be given to no‐strike deals in essential services in
return for compulsory arbitration.” More via http://j.mp/gtXaSZ

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