ConservativeHome Diary Week 14: Five MPs Who Won't Get Promoted But Should
5 Jul 2013 at 14:04
What is it with Tory MPs at the moment? There must be something in the air. Last week Crispin Blunt ‘mwah mwah’d’ me, and this week I got a bear hug from Mark Pritchard, who had come into the LBC studio to talk about MPs’ pay. It’s just not British! Anyway, credit to Pritchard for sticking his head above the parapet and being willing to talk about a subject which most MPs know they are likely to get shredded by the general public. Mark’s view is that yes, MPs deserve a rise, but it would be impossible to take one in these times of austerity. I suspect that view reflects the majority view in the House of Commons, and yet IPSA is about to make things even worse by trying to impose a £10k rise on MPs. The argument that if you delegate the decision to an outside authority you ought to then accept its conclusion may be logical, but it won’t cut much ice with public sector workers who have had to accept an effective pay freeze for the next three years. What may well happen is that the rise is imposed anyway and rich MPs will take the moral high ground and refuse it, while MPs from normal backgrounds will come under huge pressure from the wives or husbands to accept it. What an utter mess from IPSA. Again. It’s an organisation which really should have been strangled at birth.
Three more MP hugs followed on Wednesday night at radio’s Arqiva awards, this time from Cheryl Gillan, John Whittingdale and my good friend Nigel Evans (who, given the circumstances, was in remarkably cheerful form). Quite unbelievably, I had just won Radio Presenter of the Year. In my professional life it is probably the best moment of my career. To be recognised by your peers in any walk of life, but especially after only two and a half years of doing it, was quite something. I know many Conservative members [yes, you, Sally Roberts!] get very annoyed when I criticise any aspect of Conservative policy on air, but sometimes people forget that radio presenters are there to present, not be mouthpieces for political ideology. I never thought I would ever say that I was glad I didn’t succeed in my political ambitions, but I truly believe I have, at a comparatively late age, discovered my real vocation in life.
It’s not often I get told to ‘piss off’ on air, that I’m horrific, that I shout down callers and then have the phone put down on me on my radio show. In fact it’s only happened once and that was last Friday. It followed a Fathers 4 Justice supporter gluing a message to the Haywain, which I rate as one of the most iconic British paintings of all time. I had interviewed Jolly Stanesby, a spokesman for FFJ and admittedly I gave him a bit of a going over, accusing them of losing the support of people like me by carrying out these random acts of wanton destruction. I put it to him that there wouldn’t be a single MP who would think to themselves “Oh well, we’d better pass a new law, if this is what they are going to do”. A few minutes later a 19 year old girl came on the phone and laid in to me over the attitude I had displayed. No matter how much I protested that I had great sympathy with FFJ’s cause she wasn’t having any of it and ended the call very abruptly! Whatever the rights and wrongs of what FFJ did, in a sense you can understand their frustration because no one in power seems remotely interested that fathers all over the country are suffering because of the ridiculous custody laws here. It’s one of the few regrets I have that I never got into Parliament, as fathers’ rights is a cause I wanted to champion. I just can’t understand why so few others seem to have taken up the cudgels.
Chris Grayling’s article in the Telegraph warning us not to be taken in by the charms of that nice man Nigel Farage was clearly written by a Tony Blair impersonator. Why? Because it contained so few verbs and so many one word sentences. If you ignore the content, it read like a Tony Blair conference speech.
Seeing as reshuffle time is fast approaching let’s indulge in a little speculation, shall we? I find it very amusing that most of the speculation revolves around the same names. It’s either very lazy commentary or those that are being heavily tipped are very good at their own PR and self-promotion. And from the way most people have written, you’d think only women were allowed to be promoted. So far I have tipped Jessica Lee for promotion so let me give you five MPs I’d seriously advise the Prime Minister to promote. None of them would be described as part of the set known as the ‘beautiful people’, but they all have one thing in common. They are clever, transparently honest, great constituency MPs and have run highly successful campaigns from the backbenches. My first nomination is Gavin Barwell. His reaction to the riots in his area and his piloting of some mental health legislation has been exemplary. He is great on the media and comes across as a normal human being. If he doesn’t become a minister there’s truly something wrong with the system. Tracey Crouch may sit for what has been traditional a marginal seat, but her brilliant constituency work will, I believe, enable her to not just hold her seat but increase her majority. She has been something of an independent spirit, but has never been a gratuitous rebel. She’d make a great Minister for Sport given her record as a qualified football coach and general expertise in the subject. Nick de Bois is similar to Tracey Crouch in almost every way except that he has testicles and knows nothing about sport (he’s a Liverpool fan. Need I say more?). His appointment as a minister would certainly go down well on the right, but I have to say I don’t think either I or he expect it to happen. But it ought to. Another woman on the right whose lack of preferment has always been a mystery to me is Eleanor Laing. She’s superb on the media, has a real knowledge of several key issues and is a force to be reckoned with. And she’s got an infectious sense of humour. OK, it’s not necessary to have a sense of humour to be a minister, but it sure helps. And my final nomination is Jane Ellison. Jane is from the left of the party and made her name in the Tory Reform Group. She’s eloquent, speaks normal person’s language and I think would make a great minister. Her supposed Europhile credentials have made her path to the top more difficult, but she’s stuck with it and never given up. That’s a real quality for a minister. So – Jessica Lee, Nick du Bois, Gavin Barwell, Tracey Crouch, Jane Ellison and Eleanor Laing. They all deserve it on merit, but do I expect any of them to make it? I wouldn’t put money on it.