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In pole position for promotion to Cabinet: Greg Clark, Nick Herbert and Grant Shapps

By Jonathan Isaby

By writing this piece, I'm not suggesting that a reshuffle is in the offing - it isn't as far as I am aware. But sooner or later we can expect the Prime Minister to shuffle his pack (although it will be all the more complicated owing to the need to accommodate a requisite number of Lib Dems). So whenever that does take place, who are most likely to be the next Tory Cabinet ministers?

WILLETTS DAVID NW There are currently six ministers who are not members of the Cabinet who regularly get to attend meetings nonetheless: Cabinet Office ministers Francis Maude and Oliver Letwin; universities minister, David Willetts; Commons Leader, Sir George Young; Chief Whip, Patrick McLoughlin; and Attorney General, Dominic Grieve. Most of those are round pegs in round holes who are not obvious candidates for a change of portfolio - although there is a possibility that David Willetts could yet be rewarded with a promotion for his role in the passing of the tuition fees settlement. 

Naturally, most of the next entrants to the Cabinet will be those currently serving at Minister of State level in middle-ranking ministerial roles. And because there was the need to make way for Liberal Democrats into the Cabinet after the general election, there is a considerable number of MoSs who did actually sit at the top table at some point during the party's years in opposition, namely:

  • Greg Clark
  • Alan Duncan
  • Chris Grayling
  • Damian Green
  • John Hayes
  • Nick Herbert
  • David Lidington
  • Grant Shapps
  • Hugo Swire
  • Theresa Villiers

Of those ten ministers, conversations I have had with a number of MPs and other well-placed sources suggest that the three most likely candidates for promotion would be:

CLARK GREG 2 Greg Clark - currently the Minister for Decentralisation based at the Department for Communities and Local Government, whose portfolio also includes the "Big Society". Well-regarded by Downing Street and colleagues alike, he was only elected to the Commons in 2005 and spent the final eighteen months of the last Parliament shadowing then Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband.

Nick Herbert - Again an MP of the 2005 vintage, the openly gay Herbert is working at both the Home Office and Ministry of Justice putting into practice the plans for police reform which he masterminded as an opposition spokesman before his sojourn in the shadow cabinet before the election as shadow environment secretary.

Grant Shapps 2010 Grant Shapps - The housing minister, another of the 2005 intake at the DCLG, who has held that portfolio since 2007 and is now turning the ideas he developed in opposition into government policy. He is increasingly being used as a cheerleader for the Government on the broadcast media.

Then there are the remaining seven Conservative Ministers of State to consider:

  • Greg Barker
  • Simon Burns
  • Nick Gibb
  • Charles Hendry
  • Mark Hoban
  • James Paice
  • Mark Prisk

Mark Prisk 2011 Of those, it is Mark Prisk whom I would most likely tip for the top table. Elected to the Commons in 2001, he is the minister responsible for Business and Enterprise at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. He is a safe pair of hands who in his role as shadow minister for Cornwall before the general election also helped ensure three Tory gains in the county.

Meanwhile, promotion for Treasury minister Mark Hoban should not be discounted, with many believing that Greg Barker's personal friendship with David Cameron will stand him in good stead as well.

Of the ranks of the most junior ministers, there are other names which stand out as potential Cabinet ministers of the future, although not necessarily at the first government reshuffle.

Mark Harper Mark Harper was elected for Forest of Dean at his second attempt in 2005, quickly shone as an assiduous parliamentarian who was a spokesman on defence and the disabled in opposition. Now he finds himself in the crucial job of minister responsible for Political and Constitutional Reform at the Cabinet Office.

David Cameron has opined previously about his desire to see more women in senior frontbench roles. There are many highly talented women in the 2010 intake, a number of whom will make the frontbench before too long; but of the existing female junior ministers, Justine Greening at the Treasury and the minister for the disabled, Maria Miller, are probably the two to watch.

Greening's Treasury colleague, David Gauke, is another who should be expected to rise further up the ministerial ranks.

All of that is to gloss over the forty MPs who serve as parliamentary private secretaries - often termed the first rung on the ministerial ladder - as well as the many highly capable and ambitious members of the 2010 intake.

But nonetheless, above are some names to keep on your radar. Do ConHome readers agree with this assessment?


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