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Andrew Mitchell

Position: Secretary of State for International Development 2010

Last Updated: Friday, January 28th, 2011

Andrew Mitchell has outlived – politically – the man to whom he arguably owes his Cabinet position, David Davis.

Having run the leadership campaign of his former colleague in the whips’ office in 2005, his reward was a place in David Cameron’s shadow cabinet as shadow international development secretary – the portfolio which he continues to hold to this day now as a Cabinet Minister.

He has also reached a more elevated position than his father, Sir David Mitchell, who was an MP in Hampshire between 1964 and 1997 and a junior minister for nine years under Margaret Thatcher, serving variously at the Departments of Transport and Industry and the Northern Ireland Office.

Born in 1956, Andrew Mitchell was educated at Rugby and Jesus College, Cambridge, where he read History, chaired the Conservative Association and went on to become President of the Union.

After university he served with the 1st Royal Tank Regiment as part of the UN Peacekeeping Forces in Cyprus before embarking on a career with investment bank Lazard, where he remained until his election to the Commons at the age of 31 in 1987.

He sat as MP for Gedling on the outskirts of Nottingham (having unsuccessfully contested Sunderland South in 1983) and within a year had been made a parliamentary private secretary – a role he fulfilled for both William Waldegrave and then John Wakeham over a four-year period.

For most of that time he was also Secretary of the moderate One Nation group of Tory MPs, although it was after the 1992 general election that he forged some of the alliances that would be key to his political future: he was a member of the Government Whips Office between 1992 and 1995, alongside the likes of Greg Knight, Derek Conway and Davis Davis, all of whom would later be involved in promoting the leadership ambitions of the latter.

In 1995 his loyal service to the Major Government as a whip was rewarded with the job of Social Security Minister, although his tenure ended as the Government went down to its landslide defeat in 1997, with Labour gaining his own seat in the process.

His involuntary departure from Parliament saw him return to Lazard as a director, amongst other business interests, although after a lengthy fight to find a new seat (during which he accused some of the Eurosceptic Right of seeking to frustrate his ambitions) he was finally selected to replace Sir Norman Fowler in Sutton Coldfield at the 2001 election.

After backing David Davis for the leadership at his first attempt (and subsequently voting for Ken Clarke) Mitchell sat out the leadership of Iain Duncan Smith on the backbenches. He was no fan of the former Maastricht rebel and was cited in the press as being one of those behind the whispering campaign to oust him from the top job.

Michael Howard appointed him as a frontbench spokesman on economic affairs in 2003, before transferring him to David Davis’s home affairs team the following year. And his campaign to propel Davis to the party leadership in 2005 may have been unsuccessful, but the consolation prize from new leader David Cameron was indeed that place in the shadow cabinet as shadow international development secretary (initially given to him by outgoing leader, Michael Howard, in May 2005).

The role has not historically been a prominent one for Conservatives, but Mitchell has made it his own, aided by David Cameron’s pledge to maintain spending on DfID as a government priority. Mitchell has also overseen Project Umubano, the Conservative Party’s now annual social action project in Rwanda, which has helped demonstrate the party’s commitment to international development issues.

So Mitchell has seamlessly transformed from being Davis’s henchman to a Cameron loyalist – whose appetite for Coalition politics became clearer than ever when it was reported before Christmas 2010 that it was he who initiated the Cabinet discussion about how to maximise the Liberal Democrat vote in the recent Oldham East and Saddleworth by- election.

Jonathan Isaby

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