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The Unchained Five and a turning point for the 2010 intake

By Peter Hoskin
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Unchained Five

If Enid Blyton were writing the story of British politics this month, it might be called Five Go Hunting For Growth. After all, on 13th September, five plucky, relatively young members of the 2010 intake will be publishing a book stuffed full of prescriptions for our ailing economy and the country that surrounds it. That book is Britannia Unchained. The five MPs are Kwasi Kwarteng, Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, Chris Skidmore and Elizabeth Truss.

We heard from these five over the summer, in a slightly unfortunate preview of the book in the Evening Standard. But they’re strikingly prominent as well today, as MPs return to Westminster for the autumn. Kwasi Kwarteng provides the first entry in a series of Telegraph articles from “leading young Tory MPs”, in which he argues against economic defeatism and for a “new ‘no compromise’ strategy for our economy as a whole”. And elsewhere, Mr Kwarteng is tipped to become “the UK’s first black Prime Minister,” while Dominic Raab and Liz Truss also receive good notices, in a survey of Westminster lobbyists.

With the reshuffle perhaps only a day away, let alone the publication of Britannia Unchained, September could well be a turning point for these five and other members of the 2010 intake. A few weeks ago, it looked likely that they would benefit from David Cameron’s personnel changes. Now — although we cannot second-guess these things — it seems less certain. Much of the talk has been about promotions for those members of the 2005 intake and the Tories’ Opposition frontbench who missed out on government. The balance of the reshuffle might have shifted in favour of the Old-Timers rather than the Young Turks.

If the Unchained Five and their ilk do not make it into government, a question will immediately arise: will it have an effect on party cohesion? There is already considerable evidence that the 2010 intake are, on the whole, brilliantly free-willed and less likely to just submit to the Tory leadership’s will. But if the future starts to look like two-and-a-half more years on the back benches followed, perhaps, by a Labour government, then that could well aggravate the situation. One of the leitmotifs of the rest of this Parliament could well be Tory backbenchers increasingly forging out on their own, making names for themselves outside of Cameroonian patronage.

But if they, or at least some of them, do make it into government, the question will be of a different sort entirely: are they there because Mr Cameron and George Osborne have come around to their brand of economic activism? The words of the Prime Minister and his Chancellor yesterday certainly had hint of unchained-ness to them. And as Tim has pointed out before, Mr Osborne is rather taken with the Free Enterprise Group to which all five of Britannia Unchained's authors belong.

In any case, it will be worth keeping an eye on the Unchained Five. One of the tricks, I think, to spotting future leaders is to look for those who have little groupings around them, à la Cameron-Osborne-Hilton or Blair-Brown-Mandelson. And, while it’s possible that nothing will come of it but a book, the Kwarteng-Patel-Raab-Skidmore-Truss axis is certainly one of the most prominent groupings to emerge from the 2010 intake so far.


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