Writing for BrexitCentral yesterday, Lee Rotherham hammered home the point that the soon-to-be-appointed Prime Minister urgently needs to install Brexiteers inside Downing Street and Whitehall departments in order to deliver Brexit. He wrote:
“If Brexit means Brexit, then change as sanctioned by the referendum must, by definition, involve change. Ministers should now start accepting that they are in the business of transformation… Delivering Brexit needs freshness. It needs empowered departmental leadership. It needs ministers who have not become entangled in the small print of the Dead Deal they have been advocating, or intellectually compromised by it. It needs actual Brexiteers.”
There is little doubt that Theresa May’s administration has throughout its three years had the feel of a Remainer Government grudgingly seeking to deliver the Leave result as instructed by the voters at the 2016 referendum. And that’s hardly surprising, given how few of its members actually believed in Brexit from the beginning and campaigned for a Leave vote.
The numbers are actually quite stark. Of the 93 MPs who were appointed by Theresa May to her first Government in July 2016, I calculate there as having been 73 Remain backers (78%), 1 Undeclared voter at the time of the referendum (1%) and just 19 Leave voters (20%).
Three years later and the balance has barely improved. Naturally there have been many resignations (although departing Leave-backing ministers were actually often replaced with Brexiteers). But today, of the 94 MPs currently serving as a Minister or Whip in the Government, they break down as:
- 69 Remain backers (73%)
- 1 Undeclared voter at the time of the referendum (1%)
- 24 Leave voters (26%)
However, of the 219 Conservative MPs currently residing on the backbenches, they break down as:
- 102 Remainers (47%)
- 112 Leavers (51%)
- 4 Undeclared (2%)
- 1 Did Not Vote (Kirstene Hair, before you ask)
This imbalance between an overwhelmingly Remain-dominated Government while Brexiteers make up the majority of Tory backbenchers is unsustainable and must be addressed as a matter of urgency by the new Conservative Prime Minister.
I therefore felt it would be a worthwhile exercise to draw attention to a number of the talented Brexiteers currently languishing on the government backbenches – whether or not by their own choice – whose skills and expertise could be used in government under the new PM.
I’m not going to get into earmarking people for specific posts and there will be others not mentioned below who deserve recognition. Furthermore, I should emphasise that I am not proposing a 100% Brexiteer government and there are many honourable former Remain-backers who accept the referendum result and will play important roles in the next administration. But I hope the following might provide some inspiration for the new Prime Minister as he assembles an administration committed to delivering Brexit.
First of all there are the many Brexiteers who have quit the Government specifically over the May administration’s handling of Brexit. Aside from Boris Johnson – who BrexitCentral readers know I hope will be the one making the appointments – from the Cabinet we also lost David Davis, Dominic Raab, Esther McVey and Andrea Leadsom (as well as Priti Patel who quit for other reasons). From the Brexit Department itself, former ministers Steve Baker, Suella Braverman and Chris Heaton-Harris ought surely be due a recall to the ranks of the Government, while other Leave-backers to quit over Brexit itself were junior ministers George Eustice and Nigel Adams along with Whip Gareth Johnson.
Then there is a significant raft of parliamentary private secretaries (PPSs) who quit over government policy on Brexit. Ordinarily, these unpaid ministerial aides are the next likely candidates for promotion to the ranks of the government proper, but in each of the following ten cases their decision to resign has for the time being stalled their progress: Andrea Jenkyns, Conor Burns, Chris Green, Robert Courts, Scott Mann, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Ranil Jayawardena, Michael Tomlinson, Craig Tracey and Eddie Hughes.
Some more junior Brexiteer Tory MPs have opted to beaver away on select committees these last few years rather than find themselves obliged to toe the government line by taking a PPS job. Jacob Rees-Mogg is probably the most prominent example, but others who the new PM might want to consider fast-tracking to ministerial office include Marcus Fysh, Simon Clarke, Maria Caulfield, Henry Smith and ex-MEP Andrew Lewer.
But it’s not only those Brexiteers whose talents are yet to be recognised who the new Prime Minister should be looking at using: what about the wiser owls who have ministerial experience but who Theresa May either ignored or fired? Former Cabinet Ministers Theresa Villiers, Iain Duncan Smith, David Jones, Owen Paterson, John Whittingdale and Sir John Redwood all fall into this category, as do former junior ministers like Sir Mike Penning, Mark Francois and James Duddridge.
And finally, there is a clutch of long-serving Brexiteer MPs who have never served as ministers and instead directed their energy at other roles, for whom the assembly now of a new government might finally present the opportunity to serve as a minister. The 1922 Committee Chairman Sir Graham Brady considered a run for the Tory leadership but opted against doing so and ought to be in line for a government job, while I wonder whether senior select committee veterans like Sir Bernard Jenkin, Julian Lewis and Richard Bacon could be considered for a job?
Putting together a government is evidently a tricky business, managing egos and expectations, and likely disappointing a number of colleagues. Numerous factors need to be taken into consideration, not least regional balance and gender/ethnic diversity, but when many of us look at the new government to be appointed later this month, the one thing that we will consider first and foremost is: does this government collectively believe in Brexit and the opportunities it affords? The identity of those who the new Prime Minister appoints to his government will give us our answer and I hope to see many of those I have highlighted above being suitably employed.
The post We need a government that believes in Brexit: some advice on ministerial appointments for the new PM appeared first on BrexitCentral.