Tory MPs have long assumed that Sir George Young would be shuffled out of the job of chief whip at the next reshuffle. The 71 year old had, after all, been retired from the Cabinet with honours last September only to be recalled and made chief whip following Andrew Mitchell’s resignation.
But David Cameron has now indicated to the chief whip that he’ll not be moved in the coming reshuffle. Cameron keeping the 71 year old Young in place has surprised Tory MPs; there’s concern among the younger generation that this indicates that not many more of them will get jobs this time round.
Cameron leaving Sir George in post is another sign that he accepts that whipping the party is a particularly hard job in coalition. Unlike some others in Downing Street, he doesn’t subscribe to the view that all that is needed is the smack of strong discipline. He also hopes that the party will become, to use his old chief whip Patrick McLoughlin’s phrase, ‘self-whipping’ as the next general election approaches.
I suspect that Cameron’s decision was also based on the fact that there is no obvious replacement. It would be hard to bring back Andrew Mitchell given the very public debate about whether he should stay in the job. Liam Fox is favoured by some of those close to George Osborne. But I understand that Cameron is opposed to the idea—he’s told one Cameroon minister that he doesn’t think Fox could work in that role. Then, there’s Eric Pickles. As the party chairman for the 2010 election, Pickles knows the new intake as well as anyone. But he has let it be known that he’s emphatically not interested in the job.
The fact Young’s status was assumed to be only temporary has made it harder for him to establish his authority. Some backbenchers have been happy to cross him, confident in the belief that the slate will be wiped clean when a new chief arrives. This indication that he is sticking around should help Young with that.