Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.
A question that will be asked of many of us over the next few years is this: where were you and what were you doing at the exact moment we left the European Union at 11pm on Friday 31 January?
I wish I could now give you some riveting account of where I was and what I was doing. The simple truth is I was sitting on my sofa at home with Bubba, my miniature schnauzer, squashed against my right leg, and Dude, my Jack Russell, pinned against my left. Both were fast asleep.
Oh, and I was eating a Garibaldi. How very British. All that was missing was a cup of tea. Mainly because I don’t drink tea.
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By the time I write next week’s column, I imagine that the long-awaited reshuffle will have taken place.
It was originally slotted in for Monday. Number Ten been quite successful so far in not feeding any speculation about who’s in and who’s out. The only information I have gleaned is that the Prime Minister thinks that he delivered for all his supporters in July, and he now owes them nothing. They’ve been given their chance, and if they haven’t performed, they will be out.
While we might not see a dramatic refashioning of government, in terms of departments being merged or abolished, I do hope we will see a reduction in the number of Ministers entitled to attend Cabinet.
It’s ridiculous having 33 people round the cabinet table. Let’s stop this fashion of having ministers “attending”. You’re either a full member of it or you’re not
I’d cut it back to the traditional number of 22. But that would create 11 very unhappy people. And by definition there will be more. I suppose I’d better put my neck on the block. Here are the cabinet ministers I expect to remain in post, or at least remain in the cabinet –
Sajid Javid, Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, Grant Shapps, Brandon Lewis, Rishi Sunak, Robert Jenrick, Michael Gove, Robert Buckland, Simon Hart, Mark Spencer.
That’s 11. I’d say there are question marks over the future of all the rest to one degree or another – some fairly, some very unfairly.
I can see no reason to get rid of Therese Coffey, given she was only appointed in late August, and has done nothing wrong. Indeed, you could argue that by keeping the DWP out of the headlines since then, it’s job done – yet she appears on virtually every list of people being tipped for the chop.
Liz Truss is also mentioned in similar terms, yet the Prime Minister namechecked her four times in his speech on Monday.
Andrea Leadsom is also being tipped for the chop, yet she tests well with the public and is a great survivor. To my mind, she’s become one of the best media performers in the Cabinet – but that’s not necessarily how she’s seen in Number Ten.
What may save some of the women in the cabinet is the lack of women ready to step up from the junior ranks. I’ve been impressed by Helen Whately, but a full cabinet job now? I’d say she needs to take on a tough Minister of State role first, to test her. Maybe at the DWP.
Both Jacob Rees-Mogg and Ben Wallace have been tipped for the axe and, if that comes to pass, it would be seen as proof that Johnson is a brutal butcher.
Time may have been a bit of a healer. Number Ten were furious with Jacob for his Grenfell comments on LBC during the election and he was consigned to outer Siberia (known as North Somerset) for the rest of the campaign – never to emerge in front of a camera again.
There are currently seven Ministers who attend cabinet but are not full members. Two of them – Rishi Sunak and Brandon Lewis are certainties for promotion, given the profile both of them have been given as media performers. Mark Spencer will presumably also retain his post as chief whip.
When you look at the ranks of Ministers of State, Jesse Norman, Kit Malthouse, Lucy Frazer, Caroline Dinenage are the names that might well be considered for full Cabinet roles. It’s also possible that one or two former cabinet ministers from the Cameron and May eras may well be rehabilitated.
One big question is whether Penny Mordaunt may return to the cabinet. Everyone tells me no -, but if it were me, she’d be the first new name in the jigsaw. She should never have been removed from Defence, and maybe it’s far-fetched to imagine her returning there, but perhaps the DCMS might have her name on it.
We’ll know soon.
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Think tanks come and go, and those that are here for the long term go through phases when they are hugely influential before they become less so.
Policy Exchange was always seen as David Cameron’s favourite think tank, not least because it was set up by Nick Boles and Michael Gove. I was one of its trustees in its initial few years. I was the token David Davis supporter on its board!
It has survived the transition from Cameron to May and now to Boris Johnson. In fact, I’d say that it is now the pre-eminent think tank in the Westminster village.
It’s also become much more attractive to people on the Left, who often turn up to its events and write papers for it. At an event last week with Dominic Raab and Mike Pompeo I spotted Labour MP Khalid Mahmood in the audience. He also co-wrote a paper last year with Tom Tugendhat on restoring the law of treason.
Trevor Phillips has also written for and is playing a leading role in the think tank. There are few organisations that could attract power players like Mark Carney and Alan Greenspan, or Dominic Raab and Mike Pompeo to appear on its platforms.
Dean Godson, who has been the Director of Policy Exchange since 2013, has skilfully led Policy Exchange through three different Conservative administrations in a way that other think tanks can only marvel at.
The softly-spoken Godson is often thought of as an ideological right winger, yet his pragmatism has enabled Policy Exchange to reach new heights of influence, with dozens of its alumni now sitting on the Conservative benches in Parliament.
If anyone was to draw up a list of the top twenty most influential think tanks in Westminster, can anyone seriously doubt that Policy Exchange would be at number one? And that’s in large part due to Godson’s outstanding leadership of it.