Who does Theresa May want to promote in her reshuffle? On our Coffee House Shots podcast today, we discuss how the Prime Minister actually feels powerful enough to even consider moving ministers around, and why she might want to delay that reshuffle for as long as possible. But there’s another question worth asking, which is who wants to accept Theresa May’s offer of a promotion?
One of the names being mooted is Tom Tugendhat, currently the chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. Tugendhat has only recently taken that position, but it wouldn’t be an unprecedented move: Rory Stewart left his position as Defence Select Committee chair in 2015 after less than a year because he was offered a ministerial job. His colleagues who had elected him were a bit peeved, partly because they wondered whether Stewart could really achieve more in a ministry than he could leading a select committee, and partly because they didn’t like someone moving before really making an impact in one job.
If Tugendhat does accept a ministerial post, his tenure on the Foreign Affairs Committee will be even shorter, and once again it will suggest that the alternative parliamentary career path of scrutinising the government through the committee system still isn’t quite as attractive as it should be.
Select Committees could be the powerhouses of Parliament, full of MPs who would prefer to serve and have influence in their role as legislators rather than join the executive to languish in a government department under a controlling Secretary of State who doesn’t trust them (which often happens to ambitious, impressive junior ministers with ideas of their own). The chairmanships are now hotly-contested and have become far more prestigious after being taken out of the power of the party whips. But there is still a culture of ambitious MPs yearning to spend the bulk of their careers in the corridors of Whitehall, rather than those of Parliament. A minority government which can’t achieve very much might change the balance of this somewhat, but while it might still be an exciting move for the Tonbridge and Malling MP to become a minister, it would be a dispiriting piece of news for those who want the brightest and the best to make Parliament their focus.