After the moment of ubiquitous British soppiness as David Cameron retreated to family life, it was reassuring to see how swiftly the newly sworn in UK Prime Minister Theresa May appointed a new cabinet to introduce her vision of a compassionate society.
On the conservative scale, Mrs May is to the left of her predecessor Mr Cameron; she understands injustice, inequality and is against all prejudice. She has served in a Shadow capacity under William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Howard, and as David Cameron’s Home Secretary for six years. May is very private about her private life. As a young Conservative she met her husband Philip at an Oxford Union Conservative Association disco in 1976, who according to the BBC, was introduced to her by Benazir Bhutto, then a well-known party girl studying international law and politics. Philip May has his own career but is never-endingly supportive and loyal to his political wife.
May’s new Chancellor Philip Hammond has something in common with his Prime Minister. Steady and hard-working, he is also a graduate from Oxford University. Neither succumb to gossip (other Oxford Tory contemporaries include Alan Duncan, David Willetts, Dominic Grieve and Damian Green and the political journalist Michael Crick). Hammond has had a multi-faceted successful career inside and outside Westminster; he has personally made significant money in various commercial businesses and enjoyed two stints as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, he believes in a strong military capability and as a student of PPE he will aim for economic stability. This reporter met him in November 2014 and found him very approachable and right on point. Hammond will be a supportive Chancellor to Michael Fallon who remains as Secretary of State for Defence, no doubt selected as much for continuity as for efficacy, also a usefully diplomatic spokesman.
People are too quick to mock Boris Johnson, Brexiteer in chief; his appointment as Foreign Secretary is inspired, also ex-Oxford, from journalist to editor of The Spectator- Britain’s No. 1 political commentary weekly, toShadow Minister for Higher Education; his achievements as Mayor of London have been celebrated (2012 London Olympics). Johnson is a cerebral historian; he is deft in analysis and conversation. Many are too quick to mock him for his shambolic appearance and artful humour, but beneath it is a man with geopolitical political nous, whose co-workers at City Hall admired his skill at making his vision happen and for his management skills. Johnson is not someone who President Putin will have as a canape and he is everything that the Americans find endearing about the British eccentric.
Amber Rudd has been Westminster’s rapidly rising star now settled into the firmament of the Home Office, responsible for the safety of Britain’s population and all the security that entails. Rudd is probably the most liberal minister in the cabinet. A hardcore EU Remainer, she has been onside for gay rights and against FGM. She was previously a Private Parliamentary Secretary to George Osborne, an assistant whip and Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. Rudd is efficient; her office comprehensively answered this reporter’s enquiry into how UK’s solar panel parks are de-commissioned. Rudd ticks the young ambitious environmentally friendly pro-EU woman box but with scant experience in defending the realm. Mrs May is said to be a patient and excellent mentor which will be useful in this respect.
Longterm euro-sceptic David Davis is appointed to a new position especially for our times, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Brexit Minister). As a formerMinister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, former Shadow Home Secretary, Shadow Deputy Prime Minister and Conservative party chairman, he is well-qualified for this tricky dismantling. After the 2010 election, Cameron wanted Davis in the Coalition Government but Davis preferred to be a backbencher campaigning for civil liberties and to be a critic of the government’s stance on tuition fees, child benefits, penal reform and capital gains tax. A grammar school boy, born on a council estate, he will ensure that Brexit works for everyone.Three days ago Davis laid out his Brexit economic strategy on the Conservative Home website: introducing international Trade deals within two years, the elimination of tariffs, cutting taxes and unnecessary red tape while protecting workers rights. If Brussels are irrational, Davis advocates waiting before triggering Article 50 to give himself time to consult with all the British stakeholders. What is not totally explanatory is how he will deliver an immigration system that allows UK to control numbers, enter Amber Rudd/ Theresa May.
Dr Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade, is the perfect foil to work with Davis and Johnson but better still. As a Scot he will be a constitutional unifier to help May with the independently minded Scots, Welsh, and Northern Irish governments. Fox is an expert of constitutional affairs, a former Secretary of State for Defence, Shadow Foreign Secretary and Chairman of the Conservative party. Fox knows his way around Westminster and the world. In November 2015, he told this reporter he wanted a looser trading EU not a political project. He also said “Capitalism is better than a demand economy, democracy is better than dictatorship and religious tolerance is better than Islamist fundamentalism”. With Hammond’s uncut Defence Budget, to avoid any equipment inadequacies (as highlighted by the Chilcot report) and to keep military equipment up to snuff, Fox and Fallon are likely to work closely together.
The above is such a recipe for success, it is tempting to think it was not all cooked up long before Andrea Leadsom bottled out of the leadership contest. At the time of going to press the new Conservative Party Chairman has yet to be announced. May’s cheerleader and Brexiteer Chris Grayling is the name touted and missing from the list of May’s distinguished supporters.