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The Past Destroyed Miller – Might Her Replacement Be The Conservative Party’s Future?

Last Updated: Friday, April 11th, 2014

The Maria Miller scandal was rooted firmly in the past – the sins of the old expenses system still haunt Parliament, even years after it was abolished. The reshuffle following her resignation, though, was entirely about the future.

First, there’s the short-term future of the Coalition government.

Even before the expenses scandal reignited, DCMS was not the best-handled department in recent years. The response to Leveson was a clumsy mess, which remains unresolved and has alienated much of Fleet Street. Same Sex Marriage became a toxic rather than a happy issue and suffered a major rebellion within the Parliamentary Conservative Party. The BBC’s funding model is unexpectedly up for debate – but it is backbenchers, not ministers, making all the running on the issue.

There’s a general feeling that, despite her undoubted intelligence, the previous Secretary of State did not adequately control her brief. An effective minister caught up in a scandal is bad enough – Miller did not have a great record to shield her from the storm when it blew in.

This partly explains the decision to appoint Sajid Javid in her place. He is far more straight talking and hard-hitting than his predecessor – in fact, he’s far more straight talking than most frontline politicians of any party.

He will be a loss to the Treasury team, where he was a highly effective spokesman on the central, economic mission of the Coalition. DCMS may well be an under-powered vehicle for such a skilled driver, but it needs someone like him to steer it firmly after its recent scrapes and bumps.

So the department will be stabilised and, hopefully, a tougher line established on its main issues.

By contrast, the longer term game is rather bigger. The leadership of the Conservative Party is the prize, after all.

In many ways this was an Osborne-focused reshuffle. Javid is one of the Chancellor’s men, and his swift advancement to the Cabinet table is another feather in his former boss’s cap, as well as another helpful voice when it comes to cutting everyone’s budgets.

Nicky Morgan has been promoted within the Treasury team to replace Javid, rewarding her loyalty to the almighty Long Term Economic Plan. Andrea Leadsom steps into Morgan’s shoes despite once having loudly fallen out with Osborne – a potent sign that he is both willing and able to forgive.

On the face of it, all this strengthens the Chancellor’s machine to bid for the leadership if the General Election is lost. Just as we saw in the previous reshuffle, his allies make reliable progress into more and more key jobs.

It may not be that simple, though. Consider the rapturous write-ups the new Cabinet Minister has received – a self-made millionaire, son of an impoverished immigrant who drove buses in Lancashire through the night to support his kids. They might be slightly too rapturous for the Chancellor’s liking.

Osborne promoted Javid because he is so talented, and because he is a potent example of aspiration and meritocracy in action. As a result of those attributes, some people are already talking about him as the first Asian leader of the Conservative Party.

It would be a rich irony if a promotion intended to bolster the Chancellor’s leadership campaign actually propelled the promotee into the top job. Might the pupil, Jedi Javid, one day defeat the master?

By Mark Wallace



Peter Franklin: Scottish independence would be a disaster for Labour, but a death blow to the Conservative Party  ‘Perhaps it’s the Conservative Party that’s in denial. It’s not forty seats we’d be losing in the event of a Yes vote, but our country – and yet we’re all going about our business as if this wasn’t a very real and imminent possibility. Should things go the wrong way in September, the shock to the Conservative psyche would be immense.’ Read More:

Paul Goodman: Morals of the Miller’s Tale  ‘I compared Miller’s fate earlier to a beast torn apart by its fellows. It was perhaps the wrong comparison. It is more like watching a group of climbers attempting a mountainside. One falls screaming to her death. As she flashes past the others, they look on with a strange mix of schadenfreude, pity, and indifference. Then they cling to their ropes just a little more tightly.’ Read More:

Iain Dale: The next victim of our broken justice system won’t be Nigel Evans. It will be Joe Bloggs. ‘The two institutions who emerge from this will real stains on their reputations are the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. They seem to think they did nothing wrong. I and others will not rest until they are made to come to terms with their poisonous agenda, wicked actions and duplicity. How on earth could they bring charges on behalf of four people who didn’t want them brought, and didn’t consider themselves victims?’ Read More:

Mark Wallace: Andrew Bridgen writes to Cameron, withdrawing his letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister   ‘No-one knows quite how many no confidence letters sit in Graham Brady’s safe, other than that it must be less than the 46 which would trigger a formal leadership challenge. There is certainly one fewer now. With the economy ticking up and the General Election approaching – as well as perhaps a clearer idea of the damage a Miliband government would do to the nation – the number of MPs who want to see Cameron unseated appears to be on the ebb.’ Read More:

Andrew Gimson interviews Charles Moore on Thatcher    “She’d have the theory which would be very unsayable now, against this ‘we’re all in this together’ rhetoric, which is that the number of people who make major improvements to the state of the nation is quite small, in economic terms, so though she’s always very keen to expand all human opportunity, she also had a particular tenderness for those who were enterprising, and her politics was a politics of strong identification with if you like the rising class in society.” Read More:

By Mark Wallace

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