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Were the Tory greybeards victims of the Coalition jobs carve-up?

Picture 5 In an interview with the Daily Telegraph last summer, David Cameron said in the wake of the MPs' expenses scandal:

“It’s often said that I wanted to get rid of old MPs. That is not true. People like George Young, James Arbuthnot or Peter Lilley, Stephen Dorrell; people that have done work for me, like John Gummer. These people bring a huge amount to the House of Commons and Conservative Party. I listen to their advice. They have every chance of serving in a future Conservative government.

Sir George Young returned to the frontline as Shadow Leader of the House in a mini-reshuffle last autumn (and is now holding that job for real), but none of the others has attained ministerial office in the new government.

Paul Goodman has already offered this set of observations about the ministers appointed by David Cameron, and having to make room for a number of Liberal Democrats clearly gave the Prime Minister little room for manoeuvre.

But I don't think that anyone has really picked up on Mr Cameron's failure to follow through on this previously clear signal that he wanted to bring back some of the other greybeards from the backbenches with previous ministerial experience to bolster some of the departments.

Additional to those named by David Cameron above, it had been widely thought, for example, that one of his key mentors, the now ennobled Michael Howard, would also be in line to serve in a Cameron Government.

So will these voices of experience be rewarded with some kind of role in due course or will their wisdom have to remain on the backbenches  of the Commons? We'll have to wait and see.

I note in this post today that Stephen Dorrell is seeking to chair the Commons Health Select Committee, whilst James Arbuthnot is hoping to be re-elected (in a crowded field) to the helm of the Defence Committee.

Jonathan Isaby

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