The Current UK Cabinet: Part 3/3

You may also be interested in Parts One and Two.

The Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP: Leader of the House of Commons, Lord President of the Council
Grayling has two jobs here, and they’re both internal governmental things that most of us never need to think about much: Lord President of the Privy Council means that he’s in charge of arranging a monthly meeting wherever the Queen happens to be and telling her what’s going on, and Leader of the House of Commons means that he’s one of Cameron’s three principal cat-herders (the others being, of course, the Speaker and the Whip). This means that he is massively important and influential if you happen to be an MP and largely irrelevant to most of the rest of us. Which is probably for the best, as he was so bad at his last job that a High Court Judge had to overrule his policies as unlawful not once, not twice, but three times, not counting all the times they got pissed off with him without ruling that he was actively trying to break the law. For what it’s worth, his own party don’t seem to like him all that much either.

The Rt Hon Oliver Letwin MP: Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Alright, so dear Lancaster, why the fuck should we care. It’s a tiny job, a one-day-a-week deal that gets a little pro-rata salary, and it’s usually given to someone who works in one of the ministerial departments but whom the PM would like to have a seat in the Cabinet anyway. I’m vaguely concerned about this in Letwin’s case, because his other job is looking after the Cabinet Office from an administrative and managerial perspective – a role that specifically doesn’t entitle you to be a member of said Cabinet. Letwin himself has the dubious honour of having been the man whose bright idea it was to use Scotland as a kind of guinea pig for the Poll Tax, and he appears to remain a devoted Thatcherite and austerity peddler to this day. Austerity does not begin at home, though: it seems that on the four days a week he’s not worrying about Lancaster he still works as a merchant banker. Additionally, he has really weird eyebrows.

Mark Harper: Chief Whip (Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury)
Ahh, yes, the Chief Whip: the man whose job it is to make sure that everyone else in the House is toeing the party line as is good and proper. I can’t quite help but be endeared by the fact that he once broke his foot by falling off a table on which he had been dancing in a pub in Soho, but that doesn’t exactly put the lie to his long history of hypocrisy. So far he’s been an Immigration Minister who employed an illegal immigrant to clean his house and a Disability Minister whose office wasn’t even remotely accessible – with a bit of luck he’ll have the whole Conservative party voting to the left by Christmas.

The Rt Hon Matthew Hancock MP: Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General
Hancock is likely to find the second half of his job becoming less and less onerous as time passes, because looking after the bank accounts of centralised services is lot easier when all the centralised services have been sold off. Hancock is a proper Tory’s Tory: he did PPE at Oxford and then Economics at Cambridge, he lives in Suffolk, and his hobbies include cricket, horseracing and writing books about how capitalism turns him on. His voting record backs all this up: the man in charge of most of the public money wants to increase the taxes that disproportionately affect the poor and leave those that would hit the rich instead untouched. He’s also predictably harsh about the welfare state, toeing the party line that benefits should be crushed and pensions should be ringfenced. The role of the Paymaster General is not as influential as those held by Osborne or IDS, but rest assured his voice will be heard.

The Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC: Attorney General
Wright was first appointed to the post of Attorney General last summer, and back then it was a bit of a surprise. Prior to his promotion, he’d just sort of pootled around the House doing a bit of this and a bit of that. He got a bit caught up in the so-called Expenses Scandal, which is a shame because it’s mostly his job to rule on that sort of thing, but there were no duck ponds involved and I’ve never been able to find it in myself to get too exercised about that anyway. Presumably he’s spent most of his time over the past couple of years trying to keep Chris Grayling from pissing off any more High Court judges.

Priti Patel MP: Minister of State for Employment
The only woman of colour in the current Cabinet is the daughter of two Ugandan-Asian refugees, and I really really want to like her. She doesn’t make it easy, though: she’s a major spearheader of the idea that destroying the benefits system and tidying people away into zero-hours contracts is the same thing as fixing the unemployment rate, and she seems to be a supporter of the death penalty.

The Rt Hon Greg Hands: Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Ostensibly, Hands is here to play Bursar – but the truth seems to be that Cameron wants him on-side for dealing with the EU referendum. He apparently speaks German, French, Slovak and Czech, as well as having “working knowledge of three other Slavonic languages”, and he has close ties with Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor. His website makes it clear that he will be “backing the Prime Minister’s commitment to change the basis of Britain’s EU membership”. Presumably he’ll do something with some money or whatever as well? I dunno. I expect so.

The Rt Hon Baroness Anelay of St Johns DBE: Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office
The F&C Office is the one in charge of Migration, and on the surface of it she seems like one of the good guys: she’s a staunch advocate for religious freedoms, and she seems to have some alright things to say about the UN Human Rights Council. She has a rather patchy and inconsistent voting record, though; the left will be pleased to note that she comes down “moderately against a stricter asylum system” and “very strongly against introducing ID cards”, but sadly she is also “very strongly against equal gay rights”. Does she give a shit about GBLT asylum seekers fleeing persecution in the countries they were born in? Why on earth does Cameron, who seems himself to be pretty much on the side of light about this, think it is acceptable to flood his cabinet with so many bloody homophobes?

Robert Halfon: Minister without Portfolio
We’re nearly at the end here, and you might have noticed that I haven’t listed a Minister for Disabilities – because there isn’t one. Halfon, though, is our current Minister Without Portfolio (“Do take a vote, old chap! What’s that you say? You expected an important job to do? Never mind, never mind…”) and is also the only serving Cabinet member who has a disability himself. You’d be forgiven for thinking that he might therefore stick up for the rights of the disabled in a parliament that seems to want to forget that those people exist – but sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. He has voted “very strongly against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability”, and in general his voting record is pretty contemptible – he’s definitely to the right of the party line. This is kind of weird, because it’s not at all what he sounds like – he’s been quoted as saying this: “In many ways Ukip have done us an enormous favour because they’re cleansing people from the Tory party that had these kinds of views, which is great because I don’t want people who have those kinds of views in my party. So good luck to them, really.” Such a sentiment is all well and good, but I’m pretty sure you couldn’t get a fag paper between his politics and most of theirs anyway. The one saving grace is that he does seem to back an increase in the minimum wage, which he might get a chance to make some noise about now that he’s comfortably installed within the Cabinet.

Anna Soubry MP: Minister of State for Business and Enterprise
Soubry is probably most famous for that one time she might have called Ed Milliband a ‘sanctimonious cunt’ and that other time she most certainly did say that Nigel Farage “looks like somebody put their finger up his bottom”. Interestingly, however, she seems to be somewhat to the left of her party: she’s excellent on GBLT issues and decent on equality and human rights in general, and she’s not at all a frothing right-winger about migration or the EU. She’s shit about benefits, of course, but find me a Tory who isn’t?

So there we have it, folks: thirty cabinet members, thirty Tories, thirty voices unanimous on the subject of crushing the welfare state and selling off huge chunks of the NHS. There’s also a distinctly concerning anti-GBLT sentiment amongst these politicians, presumably as part of Cameron’s desire to sew together the split he made in his party by not being completely evil on the subject. It’s not quite all bad – I have some hope for Amber Rudd and Anna Soubry, and I remain fond of Baroness Stowell – but I’m not going to tell you it’s particularly optimistic either.

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