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To mark 200 years of Dickens, Jeremy Hunt gives one of the great author's books to Cabinet colleagues

By Tim Montgomerie
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Jeremy Hunt is again tipped as the next Health Secretary in this morning's newspapers in the event of Andrew Lansley 'moving on'. That job will only be handed to him, however, if he helps to deliver upon his great task of delivering a successful London Olympics. He's described the 2012 Games as the supreme test of the Coalition's competence. Gulp! It may be a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire for Mr Hunt. There is a suggestion that Osborne sees him as a future leadership rival and the health brief might be as much of a poisoned chalice as a promotion.

Meanwhile the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is planning to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens by giving every one of his Cabinet colleagues a copy of one of the great author's works. Each book - carefully chosen to encapsulate something about the recipient - will be presented at Cabinet on Tuesday.

Clegg as OliverMy favourite choice is a copy of Oliver Twist for Nick Clegg. The official explanation is that the Deputy PM has responsibility for social mobility and Oliver's rise up the social ladder from the care of Mr Bumble to Mr Fagin and then to Mr Brownlow's home in Bloomsbury is, apparently an inspiration. The alternative unofficial explanation is that Nick Clegg reminds Mr Hunt and other Conservatives of Oliver Twist always asking for more. This, of course, is where fiction and reality part company. In the book, young Twist is greeted with a "no" by the powers-that-be.

Marie Woolf in The Sunday Times (£) lists other Cabinet ministers and their books...
  • David Cameron, Great Expectations and Hard Times.
  • Vince Cable, A Christmas Carol, "recalling the rather unkind comparison some newspapers have made between the business secretary and its anti-hero Ebenezer Scrooge."
  • George Osborne, A Tale of Two Cities, because of rivalries with the French over the future of the City.
  • Ken Clarke and Theresa May, Little Dorrit, "a rags-to-riches tale based largely in a debtors’ prison".
  • Eric Pickles, A House to Let. I hadn't heard of that title either.
  • Iain Duncan Smith, Oliver Twist (again), because of its theme of “putting people back to work”.
  • Justine Greening, Dombey and Don, featuring the first London to Birmingham railway.
  • Lord Strathclyde, Bleak House, which "features Sir Leicester Dedlock, an old-fashioned aristocrat opposed to change".
  • Oliver Letwin, Francis Maude and Baroness Warsi will each get copies of The Old Curiosity Shop, "because the Cabinet Office “does a huge variety of different bits and pieces”, Hunt said. “It’s the old curiosity shop of government."

Michael Gove isn't mentioned by The Sunday Times but Jeremy Hunt tells me that the Education Secretary will be getting a Child's History of England because of his love of history.


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