The ConDem government’s week-long reshuffle has included much interest for locally based figures, with Helen Grant, who has a solicitors’ practice based on the Purley Way, getting promoted to a job at the Ministry of Justice.
The Conservative MP for Ann Widdecombe’s old seat of Maidstone and the Weald, Grant will also have a ministerial responsibility for equalities, a task that greatly challenged her predecessor LibDem Lynne Featherstone in a government widening inequality. Formally, Grant, 50, has been appointed as the joint Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice and for Women’s and Equality Issues.
Grants was set up by Helen Grant in Croydon in 1996 and specialises in family law and conveyancing, while operating free weekly outreach and advice services across south London.
Grant came very close to becoming the Conservative candidate in Sutton and Cheam but fortunately for her she came second in that contest and was then selected to replace Widdecombe in her safe Tory seat in Kent, and was elected to Parliament at the last election.
Politically mentored by Croydon South MP Lord Bletchingley, Grant makes much of her upbringing on a council estate in Carlisle.
In Sutton, there have been contrasting fortunes.
Paul Burstow has lost his ministerial red boxes at the Department of Health to make way for new talent. Asked whether this would now allow him to campaign more actively against the closure of the accident and emergency department and maternity wards at St Helier Hospital under the misnamed “Better Services Better Value” process, Burstow told Inside Croydon via Twitter last night: “My opposition to BSBV has been clear from the start. The plans cooked up local not in DH and fatally flawed”.
Tom Brake, who is an active parliamentarian, has benefited from Simon Hughes turning down the role of Deputy Leader of the House, a job that Brake now takes on. The job will tie him to the Commons but restricts opportunities to speak, which may hamper the Carshalton and Wallington MP’s predisposition to lobby against some policies, as has been his practice so far.
Being brought into government for the first time – with a peerage deservedly rewarding his achievements as chief executive of LOCOG, the organisers of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games – is Paul Deighton.
Deighton took the Olympic job seven years ago, when he had already amassed a vast personal fortune as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs (he is estimated as being worth £95 million, according to the Sunday Times Rich List).
Deighton got out of his City job just in the nick of time, before banking practices sent the global economy into meltdown. Now, this scion of Carshalton, a former Wallington schoolboy, has been appointed as commercial secretary to the Treasury, his task to get the country out of the hole that his bonus-claiming banker mates got us into in the first place. Unsalaried, Lord Deighton will start work in January with responsibility for implementation of the 30-year National Infrastructure Plan published in 2010. In doing this he is being tasked with removing any unnecessary blockages that are holding back projects from happening.
Paul Waugh, the editor of the Politics Home website, described Deighton’s appointment as “one of the smarter moves of the reshuffle”.
Interestingly, in his analysis of the reshuffle, Waugh claims that Gideon Osborne, the Chancellor blamed for taking Britain into a double dip recession and who some suggested might be the biggest casualty of this reshuffle, has instead dictated many of the changes.
“George Osborne’s fingerprints are all over the reshuffle, from the sidelining of Justine Greening to the Tory tanks (both Michael Fallon and Matt Hancock) on Vince Cable’s lawn,” Waugh writes.
“At the Treasury, he’s got rid of Chloe Smith and brought in Olympics chief Paul Deighton (one of the smarter moves of the reshuffle) and the big brain of Greg Clark. Sajid Javid, one of the smartest of the new intake, also gets a key Treasury job.”
But there is no news of any promotion for the publicity-hungry Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell.
Gav was only recently appointed as a parliamentary private secretary – PPS, the first step on the ladder for ambitious MPs – to “big brain” Clark, who was a planning minister at the local government department.
Barwell had predicted that Inside Croydon would characterise his being passed over for promotion in this round of appointments, probably the last major change of this government, as “a massive blow” for him.
Not for the first time, Barwell’s got it wrong, although given the large number of junior Tory MPs who eliminated themselves from consideration for promotion by David Cameron by rebelling over the LibDems’ Lords reform proposals, the absence of even the most modest of ministerial preferment for the former Croydon councillor can hardly be described as a positive.
Even Barwell’s controversial mentor, the tax-avoiding Lord Cashcroft, has been given a job in the reshuffle, with a position on the Privy Council with a roving role on veterans’ issues (this may just give Cashcroft first dibs on buying up a few more Victoria Crosses – the burglar alarm billionaire has one of the world’s biggest private collections of militaria).
Barwell said, “Of course (nearly) all MPs want to get promoted.” He chose to spin his being overlooked by suggesting that he was in a field of 250 MPs competing for fewer than 15 jobs. It would, he said, “be arrogant to expect it”.
He suggested that he may have blotted his copybook by voting against the government twice. Also working against Barwell – but in favour of other 2010 intake MPs such as Grant – was that Cameron moved so many women out of the Cabinet, he had to get some kind of tokenistic gender balance by promoting more women to junior ministerial posts.
There’s still hope of two unannounced positions with the new Tory party co-chairman Grant Shapps. Barwell spent most of his working life at Conservative Central Office as one of former party treasurer Cashcroft’s “enforcers” with local constituency associations, so that would be a good fit.
With 10 per cent of the government allowed to attend the super-sized 32-strong Cabinet, might there be some task which our Gav can be given to do?
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- David Cameron’s right turn in cabinet reshuffle (guardian.co.uk)
- Tom Brake MP writes… Politics is a profession of unrelenting pace (libdemvoice.org)
- Reshuffle thoughts: how does it score against my four criteria? (libdemvoice.org)