Could this be the Tory Cabinet of 2020? Boris as PM and the Class of 2010 holding most of the big briefs...
By Tim Montgomerie
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The Conservatives meet in Birmingham after a very difficult summer. Deficit reduction is behind schedule. The boundary review has collapsed. After a better-than-expected speech, Ed Miliband may not be the unelectable Labour leader that Tories had hoped. A ConservativeHome poll finds exactly half of Tory members satisfied with David Cameron’s performance but a whopping 49% dissatisfied.
The party may yet recover in time for 2015. The economy should be stronger by then. Additionally, Mr Miliband is still on the wrong side of public opinion on immigration, crime and welfare. He still has no plan for the deficit, making him vulnerable to a 1992-style tax bombshell attack. Just for today, however, I don’t want to dwell on the immediate future but to look much further ahead and give every Conservative-minded reader some causes for hope. Let’s journey to 2020 and imagine what a Conservative Cabinet might look like in the post-Cameron era.
BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER: In an age when politicians are distrusted the Mayor of London is the anti-politician: likeable, spontaneous and defying any attempt to pigeon-hole him. He has won twice in a Labour-leaning city. He’s the Heineken Tory who reaches parts of the electorate that no other Conservative can. He can even win re-election in the middle of a Tory-led cuts programme.
MICHAEL FALLON, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Some worry that Boris wouldn’t have the discipline or prime ministerial qualities to succeed in the nation’s top job. Doubts are larger among Tory MPs than amongst grassroots members. The doubters underestimate his ability to build a good team, however. At City Hall he’s appointed successful Tory leaders of local government, accomplished broadcasters to direct his communications and brilliant campaigners to oversee his election efforts. If an experienced Tory heavyweight like Michael Fallon or Philip Hammond became his Deputy Prime Minister Boris becomes almost presidential, setting strategic goals but leaving his number two as the government’s chief executive.
THE NEW INTAKE: The second great Tory asset is the class of 2010. This may be David Cameron’s longest lasting and most impressive legacy to the Conservative Party. At the last election 148 new Tory MPs were elected for the first time. It was the biggest injection of new blood into the party in modern times, perhaps ever. Slowly but surely they are finding their parliamentary feet, drafting political manifestos and mounting the first rungs of the ministerial ladder. They are interesting because they blend the best of popular and compassionate conservatism. They are Eurosceptic, tough on crime and determined to cut the welfare bills. But when it comes to tax cuts their priority is the low-paid. They believe in the NHS, protecting pensioners and defending gay equality and other liberal reforms. In other words they’re as committed to Britain’s social contract as to the Thatcherite enterprise economy.
GENUINE DIVERSITY: In picking this fantasy Cabinet it wasn’t hard to promote a large number of women and ethnic minorities. I didn’t choose Andrea Leadsom for Foreign Secretary, Priti Patel as Europe Minister or Sajid Javid for Chancellor because of their gender or skin colour though. I chose them because they are some of the party’s brightest and best. Diversity must also address the party’s class and regional challenge, however. Liz Truss as Education Secretary and Jane Ellison as Secretary of State for Trade and Aid were easy choices as people with northern roots. The party must also find room for the likes of Matthew Elliott, one of the conservative movement’s best campaigners, and Neil O’Brien, one of the centre right’s best brains. They should be representing the party in the North and representing the North at the top of government.
GREAT CAMPAIGNERS: One of the other strengths of the 2010 intake is that many have fought two or three elections to win their seats – often emulating the best of the Liberal Democrats’ pavement style of politics. Few are more expert campaigners than MP for Harlow Robert Halfon and that’s why this Conservative with blue collar appeal would be my Party Chairman.
REORGANISED WHITEHALL: Illustrating new Tory priorities the 2020 Cabinet would also see the creation of some new departments and the reorganisation of others. Philippa Stroud, for example, would run a new Ministry of Social Justice, focusing on the Tories’ compassionate trifecta of stronger families, world class education and job creation. Michael Gove would run a department for civil service reform, ensuring we learnt the lessons of this government’s difficult experience of Whitehall failure. Stephan Shakespeare would run a new department focusing on using data to produce more joined-up government. Jane Ellison wouldn’t just be Secretary of State for Development but have a focus on trade too – recognising that protectionism is deadly for low income countries.
WIDE TALENT POOL: The hardest part of producing this Cabinet was leaving out so many talented people. I would have loved to have found places for some of the government’s most under-rated ministers such as John Hayes or people excluded from the Cameron frontbench, like Mark Field. I feel particularly guilty about omitting the likes of Nick Boles, Matt Hancock, Greg Hands and Mark Harper. I know I’ve probably made more enemies than friends in making my picks. And this is only a fantasy Cabinet. Poor Mr Cameron has to do it for real.
Full guide to the 2020 Cabinet:
BACK ROW FROM LEFT:
1. Matthew Elliott, Secretary of State for Public Appointments
2 Lord Shakespeare, Secretary of State for Open Data
3. Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Conservation and the Countryside
4. Brandon Lewis, Secretary of State for Transport
5. Chris Heaton-Harris, Chief Whip
6. Stephen Crabb, Secretary of State for Wales (with special responsibility for Religious Freedom)
7. Lord Greenhalgh, Secretary of State for Localism
8. Baroness Stroud, Secretary of State for Social Justice
9. Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Cities
10. Jane Ellison, Secretary of State for International Trade and Development
11. Priti Patel, Secretary of State for European Reform
12. Dominic Rabb, Secretary of State for Justice
13. Jacob Rees-Mogg, Leader of the House of Commons
14. Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Energy
15. Helen Grant, Attorney General
16. Neil O'Brien, Minister for Cabinet Office and Policy Development
17. Robert Halfon, Chairman of the Conservative Party
18. Rupert Harrison, Secretary of State for Industrial Strategy
FRONT ROW FROM LEFT
1. Nadhim Zahawi, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (with special responsibility for Heritage)
2. Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Civil Service Reform
3. Baroness May, Leader of the Lords
4. John Glen, Secretary of State for Defence
5. Margot James, Secretary of State for Health
6. Sajid Javid, Chancellor of the Exchequer
7. Boris Johnson, Prime Minister
8. Andrea Leadsom, Foreign Secretary
9. Liz Truss, Secretary of State for Education (including Universities)
10. Michael Fallon, Deputy Prime Minister
11. Jesse Norman, Home Secretary
12. Harriett Baldwin, Chief Secretary to the Treasury
13. Ruth Davidson, Secretary of State for Scotland (with special responsibility for Equality).