After Angela Eagle and Owen Smith threw their hats into the ring, Theresa May decided to make her own pitch for Leader of the Labour Party last night when she spoke on the steps of Number 10. Gays, Women, Blacks, Poor White Kids: everyone, she implied, could now shelter under the aprons of her asymmetric tunics in her One Nation. For today, though, May has had to content herself with selecting a Cabinet of Tory MPs.
And for those in the Party who assumed she was going to be the candidate of Cameron continuity, events so far have proved a nasty shock. She's ripping up the political pecking order in pursuit of her One Nation Tory dream – at once mystifying and dazzling series of selections that suggest she's either the GOAT Machiavelli, or a bit batty. Here's the form book on our new Government overlords.
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Ah, Spreadsheet Phil, Captain Boring, now locked in a perfectly-sensible missionary position clinch with his political soulmate Theresa, boring into each others' eyes at last.
Phil Ham is the man politicians have turned to when they not only needed a job done right, but by a non-rival with zero desire to hog the limelight. Beta-male Phil formerly ran a medical equipment manufacturer, and when he entered politics brought his arsenal of cost-checking skills to bear on the Ministry of Defence – notoriously an out of control money-hoover. The success he had there lead to a promotion to Foreign Secretary – where he seems to have done precisely nothing, perhaps because it involves actually talking to people rather than cross-checking columns of wing-nuts.
He's reckoned to be a bit of a fiscal hawk – favouring deficit control – whereas May's recent words have lead us to believe that a dose of government spending will soon be in order. Perhaps, under the Only Nixon Can Go To China principle, she thinks she needs someone with ironclad spending credibility to reassure the markets if she's going to start opening the national wallet.
"He's not the man you want to drive you home at the end of the evening" was the jibe that Remain-er Rudd threw at Boris Johnson during the ITV Referendum debate. A taste in men that sounds even more extraordinary given that, in the early 90s, she was married to wordy dipsomaniac wild child restaurant critic AA Gill, with whom she had two children.
Posh – her mother was briefly married to the Marquess of Coyningham, her brother is the Marquess of Coyningham – she did a typical Cheltenham Ladies College, Edinburgh University, JP Morgan trifecta, and was in the process of setting up a recruitment business when she became an MP in 2010. One of those haloed types everyone says is "a safe pair of hands", "bright", "on the move" – y'know… the sort of thing they used to say about George Osborne.
"What a relief it must be for Blair to get out of England. It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies… They say he is shortly off to the Congo. No doubt the AK47s will fall silent, and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird."
Boris Johnson, 2002.
In late-70s Oxford, there was a set of bright young undergrads that included former minister Sir Alan Duncan, former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, and Theresa May. The brightest of the bunch, though – the one who seemed most likely to turn up as an eventual Prime Minister – was reckoned to be Damian Green. It hasn't quite turned out like that. A former Channel 4 economics editor, Green was May's underling as Immigration minister in the Coalition, before effectively being sacked over the disastrous roll-out of the new UK Border Force. Now, she's given him the poisoned chalice of reforming welfare. Thanks, old chum.
Minister for Brexit
Davis occupies that odd patronising plinth as a lot of lefties' "Favourite Tory". "Decent", they mumble, "Principled". Council estate childhood. Ex-military man. Straight-backed GI Joe in the Paddy Ashdown mould. Though unlike Real-SAS Paddy, Davis' military career involved being a member of the Territorial SAS. He's opposite of a pragmatic politician – the kind of earnest swot who worked out his life principles aged 19 and has simply been putting them all into practice ever since, yet there's always been a bit of the fusty eccentric about David Davis.
He's a Leave-er through and through – along with John Redwood and Bill Cash, the man basically invented leaving the EU as a serious political cause, and is said to know more about the details side of it than anyone else still in government. As the Europe minister in the 90s, he was apparently known as "Monsieur Non". That's French for "Mr No" btw. So at least he won't need a translator for the EU response when he demands Single Market access without the Free Movement Of Peoples.
A concise argument to vote for even Jeremy Corbyn's mange-ridden Labour Party, Liam Fox is everything that was wrong with the 1990s Tories in one tubby package. Slimy, hawkish, the sort of self-important fool who'd retain the title "Doctor" 20 years after he last worked full time as a GP. An endless self-fancier, he has been pummelled in two Conservative leadership elections, yet never seems to get the message that he's not a leonine Boris Johnson eternally waiting in the wings – people just don't like him. This probably wasn't helped when in 2011, Fox was forced to resign from Government after pal Adam Werritty was found to be ordering MoD staff around from an off-piste "unofficial advisor" role.
He sees himself as the standard bearer of the right of the party, the Thatcherite purists. A big friend of: US Republicans, Israel. A big enemy of: abortion and "the gays" – he resigned his position on Glasgow University's Student Representative Council with the tired old saw: " I'm actually quite liberal when it comes to sexual matters. I just don't want the gays flaunting it in front of me, which is what they would do."
If you want an efficient summary of the last 40 years of politics in Britain, it is that Justine Greening is the first ever Education Secretary to have attended a comprehensive school. If you want an efficient summary of British politics in the last few weeks it's that three days after Brexit, she outed herself as the first openly gay woman cabinet minister and precisely no one cared.
She's the daughter of a Rotherham steelworker, a former accountant and economist, and seems to have done an 6/10 job at her last two postings: Transport and the Department for International Development. File under: quite dull, unlikely anyone would miss her if she disappeared in the next reshuffle.
Liz Truss is perhaps best known in the cheese-nationalist community for claiming it's a disgrace that we import two thirds of our cheese. In fact, her short and meteoric career seems to have been notable chiefly for a series of gaffes delivered with the cheeriness of the truly dangerous. She comes into the job from the Department for Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs, where she also promised to "open new pork markets" in Beijing. Gove was in the process of reforming and softening Britain's prisons, after his hawkish predecessor Chris Grayling had made them tougher than ever. With her twin instincts for personal cuddliness and daft populism, it's uncertain which way she'll swing.
The one-time Minister For Murdoch, who in his present role, has single-handedly turned a lovers' tiff with junior doctors into full-blown bazooka war, has been given the keys to the castle again. As noted, an enchanted media will probably spin this as more evidence of Theresa May's strategic genius, whereby every improbable move – from keeping BoJo to axing Gove – is so incomprehensible it can only be seen as evidence of a vastly higher intelligence.
Grumpy, grey Fallon has also held onto his role at Defence. A relative hawk, he reckons defeating Isis will require British boots on the ground, and is very keen on standing up to Russian aggression.
The classic "Asian teenager who had a photo of Margaret Thatcher above her mantlepiece", Patel is a headbanger from the old school – a romantic for the 80s glory days, a long-time Brexit cheerleader who even worked for James Goldsmith's Referendum Party in the mid-90s, and who managed to say the unsayable on immigration precisely because her parents were Ugandan refugees in the 70s. She wants to bring back hanging, but repeal the ban on smoking in pubs. The only (brief) time she's spent in her career outside of politics was working for a PR consultancy whose clients included British American Tobacco – where she advised them on defeating anti-smoking legislation. She voted against same sex marriage, and is basically a Star Trek Reboot of Norman Tebbitt.
An early member of the Social Democratic Party, Clark is a pointy-head, a fixer rather than a flash politician. He has a PhD in economics from LSE, worked as a management consultant and was the backroom boy in charge of Policy for three successive leaders before Cameron. As such, he will likely bore for Britain in the Business portfolio. The only bit of dirt on him is that he once signed a Parliamentary Early Day Motion supporting homeopathy, which still is not very cool, Greg, OK?
Culture, media and sport
The favourite pastime of journalists interviewing the CMS minister is to ask what cultural stuff they actually care about. With numbnuts Sajid Javid, the only cultural artefact he seemed to enjoy was Star Trek. With John Whittingdale, well it eventually turned out he preferred Babestation. Karen Bradley, a former KPMG tax policy specialist, and Theresa's treasured underling at the Home Office likes middlebrow detective novels. Inspector Morse, Dalziel and Pascoe – claiming to have read every one that has ever been printed, and religiously re-reads A Christmas Carol every year. All of which demands the question: "Why don't you just watch ITV instead of reading?" But for all the dreary WH Smiths-lit, BBC bosses will be breathing a sigh of relief to have shook off her predecessor, Whittingdale, who seemed intent on giving the Corporation a severe haircut.
Andrea Leadom (Photo via Department for Energy and Climate Change)
Lovely womb – ovoid, tending towards aubergine, tapering to a neat little beakish cervix, capable of supporting three successive children in its fleshy incubator. See the life it gives. British life. A stake in the future. A steak in the future.
Conservative Party Chairman
McLoughlin has been around since the dawn of time, yet has never collected much public profile. In terms of May's party-of-the-people agenda, his backstory is golden – a Staffordshire miner, he defied Arthur Scargill in the 1980s to keep his pit open. "My father died when I was very young," he said of his original decision to join the Tories. "My mother had to struggle very hard to bring up my sister, and we didn't get any help and support from Labour." By 1986, he was an MP, by 1989, Transport Minister under Thatcher, then a Whip under John Major, spending his time trying to beat Eurosceptics rebels into line. He ended up back at the Transport job nearly 30 years later. Blunt, unshowy, and probably on his last mission in politics.
Largely unknown, Williamson is barely 40, and so far has made his way up the political ladder entirely by the back route. He was Parliamentary Private Secretary (read: bag-carrier-in-chief), to various ministers, and finally to David Cameron himself. He joked of his role: "Immediately before being appointed, I got some practice in what it would be like to be a PPS by getting my youngest daughter to be a minister and my elder daughter to be a civil servant and I practised passing paper between them. Realising that I 'd managed to master this art, I felt that it was an appointment I could accept." It's a wry sensibility that has seen him beloved of his colleagues – while most Chief Whips are brutal enforcers, May has appointed someone who will be bringing soft skills to the role. He will need all his charms and probably an arsenal of baseball bats too – with a majority of only 12, getting any Brexit deal through Parliament will make the 90s Tory Wars over Maastricht seem like a day passing papers between your children.
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