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Seven thoughts on the final list of Conservative Ministers

Some observations on the final Government list of Ministers:

1. It's taken a long time to come - partly because of Lords appointments, partly because of Coalition haggling, and partly because both Parties are making it up as they go along.  Consider the case of James Brokenshire.  First he was in the Shadow Home Office team.  Then, last week, he was not in the new Government.  Yesterday, he was back in the Home Office team.  Did the powers-that-be concede late that they hadn't enough Ministers to handle legislation?  And there still seem to be some missing Peers - at Defence, for example.

2. Cameron's tried to keep continuity wherever he can.  The Shadow Business, Culture, DCLG, Energy and especially Treasury teams are very similar to those forged in Opposition.  Of the Shadow Cabinet Ministers not displaced to make way for Liberal Democrats, only Caroline Spelman's been moved to make way for another Conservative - Eric Pickles at DCLG.  This is all of a piece with Cameron's attitude to reshuffles: evidence suggests he believes (rightly) that they reduce rather than increase the sum of human happiness (his last major Opposition Front Bench shuffle dispensed with only one Shadow Minister).

3. None the less, the Coalition's wreaked havoc on Conservative front bench teams No fewer than 37 Shadow Ministers before the election aren't real Ministers today.  So the Whips now have almost 40 newly resentful people on their books - a problem at the easiest of times (which Coalition doesn't provide).

4. Those not appointed tended to be drawn from older MPs and the 2005 intake Julian Brazier, James Clappison, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, David Evenett, and Laurence Robertson are examples of the former.  The 2005 list is very long: David Burrowes, Tobias Ellwood, Stephen Hammond, Greg Hands, Stewart Jackson, Mark Lancaster, Rob Wilson…  Most of them will surely have been told that if they mind their manners they'll be back.  Some, such as Hands, already are - as Parliamentary Private Secretaries.  Many of them are able and the Whips won't want them discontented.

5. Note the role of the Sherpas in delivering reformGreg Clark, Chris Grayling and Nick Herbert can count themselves unlucky not to have made the Cabinet.  They're now indispensable to delivering progress on welfare reform, localism, and public service change - and will guide their Secretaries of State like Sherpas planning a Himalayan ascent.  Clark will lead the localism drive at the DCLG.  Grayling will surely manage the nuts and bolts at Work and Pensions - ensuring that the Department runs properly, while Iain Duncan Smith paints the big picture.  Herbert is working across two departments, the Home Office and Justice, helping to drive police and prison reform.  Eddie Vaizey doesn't like to give the impression of dull grind, but also has a double role at Culture and Business.

6. "Friends of Dave" have done well.  As Tim pointed out here, none of those who've fallen out of favour with David Cameron have made it into Government.  But Hugo Swire's back, Greg Barker's in place, Ed Vaizey's spanning two departments (see above) and some critics who are perhaps over-sensitive to social distinctions argue that it's a bit of a toff's front bench.  However, the claim that Cornerstone, some of whose prominent members backed Cameron in the 2005 leadership contest, has gained from the reshuffle is a little misleading.  Some of its members, such as John Hayes and Owen Paterson, are certainly Ministers; others, such as Julian Brazier, are not.

7. The Thatcherite right is under-representedNo place  at the table for David Davis, John Redwood, John Whittingdale, Chris Chope, and many other MPs whose worldview was formed in the Thatcher era.  I concede that this category's a bit of a simplification, and not all the above would want to serve as Ministers.  But the point's worth making none the less.

I'm sorry that this is all a bit Coodle and Doodle.  (See "Bleak House".)   But this is ConservativeHome, and we're meant to keep an eye on these things.  I've steered off looking at which teams will work well, and which rather less well.  That's for another day...

Paul Goodman


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