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Which Senior Ministers Are In Line For Cabinet Promotion?

Last Updated: Friday, January 20th, 2012

Chris Grayling and Damian Green popped up in the Daily Telegraph earlier today, publishing a joint article about immigration and benefits.  It is unusual for a paper to carry an article by Ministers of other than Cabinet rank.  So one might have expected the joint by-line to be that of their two Secretaries of State, Iain Duncan Smith and Theresa May respectively.

Some Cabinet Ministers like to grab publicity themselves.  Others are willing to give their junior Ministers a chance to shine.  The Work and Pensions Secretary is regarded as more willing to delegate than the Home Secretary – his attention is fixed on the new Universal Credit rather than other parts of his department’s work – but whatever the background to the piece its publication served a useful purpose.

This is to remind readers that the Government contains several very senior Conservative Ministers who don’t hold Cabinet rank, are gifted politicians and are jostling for promotion.  While it isn’t certain that there will be a Cabinet reshuffle this year – David Cameron hates changing his team, rightly believing that shuffles cause more pain than gain – a refreshment of the Government is more likely than not.

Such change may take place in the early spring, or be delayed until after the Olympics.  (Jeremy Hunt, the promotable Culture Secretary, would be unwilling to move before his work has come to fruition.)  But if it does happen, who is in line for promotion?  I think that the best way of approaching the question is to consider the way in which the Prime Minister likes to build a team.

As I say, he dislikes the hype, fuss and drama of reshuffles, believing in a straightforward way that the best way of forming a frontbench is to find able people, match them to the right job and then let them get on with it: he is also well aware that to sack people is to make enemies.  In his last Opposition reshuffle, he fired one person only from a front bench team of over 50 people.

The presence of Nick Gibb as Minister responsible for schools or Charles Hendry as an energy Minister or Tim Loughton as Minister responsible for adoption or Gerald Howarth at defence are reminders of Cameron’s preference for continuity and expertise.  Had the Conservatives won the election outright this would have been demonstrated to an even greater extent.

The repetition of Prime Minister’s commitment to seek to ensure that a third of Ministers are women by 2015 has been seized upon, not least to calculate how many Government places are likely to be available for Tory men once the 15 or so slots that must be available for Liberal Democrats have been allocated.  I recently did a calculation on ConservativeHome and came up with the miniscule figure of three.

But Cameron will begin with the bias for predictability and stability to which I alluded earlier.  He is bound to ask himself which Ministers of non-Cabinet rank have served as full Shadow Cabinet members – but didn’t make the transition to Cabinet itself.  Although he may look outside this rank of names, this is the best place to start – and end – any guesswork about who is likely to be promoted.

I can find, beside Grayling and Green – who served in Iain Duncan Smith’s Shadow Cabinet – the following:

* Alan Duncan - an International Development Minister, formerly Shadow Transport Secretary, Shadow Business Secretary and Shadow Commons leader under Cameron.

* John Hayes - a Business and Education Minister, previously Shadow Agriculture and Fisheries Secretary under Iain Duncan Smith.

* Nick Herbert  – a Home Office and Justice Minister, formerly Shadow Justice Secretary under Cameron.

* David Lidington – Europe Minister, formerly Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary under Cameron and Michael Howard.

* Grant Shapps – Housing Minister, formerly Shadow Housing Minister under Cameron.

* Hugo Swire – Northern Ireland Minster, formerly Shadow Culture Secretary under Cameron.

* Theresa Villiers – a Transport Minister, formerly Shadow Transport Secretary under Cameron.

The Prime Minister will have to reconcile, from these names and others, the need to recognise seniority; reward merit; promote women; balance the different wings of his party and not to make too many enemies.

I suspect that Shapps, Grayling and Green are among the better placed, and that Duncan and Swire’s time at the top table has probably been and gone – but one never knows.  Certainly, seniority will be an important factor when the reshuffle eventually comes.

by Paul Goodman



Bruce Anderson: Put Abu Qatada on a plane and send him to Jordan. If that provokes a political crisis, bring it on.  “There is no need to wait: put Abu Qatada on a plane and send him to Jordan. If that provokes a political crisis, bring it on. Let those who oppose the Government’s decision explain why they believe that the British people are unfit to govern themselves; why they believe that a legal system and a democracy which have endured and evolved over the centuries should now be treated with contempt.” Read more:

Kwasi Kwarteng MP: Aviation – In the short term, expand current airports. In the long term, build Boris Island: “The so-called “Boris Island” looks like a long term solution…So what is the short to medium term solution to this problem? In a new paper released today by the Free Enterprise Group, I argue that expanding current airports is the only viable option in the short to medium term. Airport operators should be allowed to build at least one more runway by 2020 at Gatwick, Stansted, or even Heathrow.” Read more:

Roger Helmer MEP: I am not prepared to stand aside for some A-List Cameron protégée from St. John’s Wood:  “I have always argued that when a Conservative MEP is out of sympathy with Party policy, and unable to defend it, he should resign to make way for another Conservative…

I have also made it clear to the Party Chairman that I believe that my obligations on this point have been fully and finally discharged by my offer, made in good faith, to resign. Accordingly, if I am obliged to stay in place until 2014, I shall feel no further sense of obligation or responsibility to the Party.” Read more:

Peter Duncan: Ten Tartan Rules to win the referendum for the Union: “The people of Scotland overwhelmingly want more powers for their Parliament, and we Conservatives have been behind the curve on their expectations since 1975. Essentially, they support localism, which is totally consistent with the aims and values of the Conservative Party. The Scotland Bill does not meet that expectation, and we should make it clear that we do not see it as a line in the sand.  Our aim should be to move towards something like Devolution Plus, as espoused by Reform Scotland.” Read more:

Paul Goodman: Difficult, hazardous and right – the Government’s push to reform disability benefits: “DLA is based largely on form filling. No conditional benefit can escape this. But there is sense in altering a paper-based system to include more face to face interviews and regular reviews. This leads to the replacement of DLA by PIP, or something like it. Even were there no deficit to reduce, ministers would be required to provide value for money, focus payments on those most in need, and reduce mistakes in the system. They cannot evade this obligation in the case of disability benefits.” Read more:

Matthew Barrett: Boris declares the end of the beginning of the beginning of campaigning against HS2: “There are no significant political benefits to giving HS2 the go-ahead. If we imagine the post-2015 political environment will return to normality and Parliaments sit for four, rather than five, years, then a Conservative-led administration will have to have won the 2010, 2015, 2019, 2023, and 2027 general elections in order to reap any real rewards from increased business in the Midlands (assuming HS2 is even completed by 2026, which is probably optimistic).” Read more:

Andrea Leadsom MP: You should be able to switch your bank account at the touch of a button: “I think the government should be more ambitious than this.  The banks should be required to develop a shared infrastructure for bank accounts that would mean switching your bank would be at the touch of a button, and you could keep your account number and all payments if you chose to do so. Such a single clearing system could be owned by the Bank of England, and a series of “unique identifiers”: could be all that’s needed to show where your account is held.” Read more:

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