Archive for the 'Ministers in trouble' Category


Esther McVey’s betting problem is why I’m taking the 20/1 on her as next out of the cabinet

Sunday, May 27th, 2018

There’s a very interesting story in today’s Sunday Times about Esther McVey, the Sunday Times say

Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, has been accused of breaching the ministerial code after she led a cabinet revolt against gambling reforms weeks after accepting hospitality from a betting firm.

Jon Trickett, Labour’s Cabinet Office spokesman, has written to the prime minister to demand an investigation of the alleged conflict of interest.

In the letter he accuses McVey of breaching the ministerial code, which requires ministers to “ensure that no conflict arises, or could reasonably be perceived to arise, between their public duties and their private interests”.

It also states that “no minister should accept gifts which would, or might appear to, place him or her under an obligation”.

McVey came under pressure after it was revealed that she and her partner, Philip Davies, the Tory MP for Shipley, attended the Cheltenham festival on March 16 as guests of William Hill. Davies recorded in the MPs’ register that he had received two tickets, worth £270 each. There was no mention of the ticket on McVey’s entry in the register.

She declined to say whether she had told ministers about the hospitality when arguing against cutting the maximum stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals. But in his letter Trickett says he understands she did not — an admission, he claims, that amounts to a conflict of interest.

The Sunday Times also note that Mr Davies received two tickets for eight racing events in the last year, but if like a good partner he took his other half to some of those events Ms McVey will be in trouble.

Whilst the amounts involved are relatively trivial I’m working on the premise there could be several other breaches of the ministerial code which could lead to the death by a thousand cuts and the minister in trouble gets described as beleaguered.

Since she joined the cabinet Ms McVey has performed poorly culminating with an answer over the rape clause when applying and receiving benefits  that sounded appalling and could have been delivered by Theresa May at her robotic worst.

This has been a surprise to those, myself included, who thought she might have been Theresa May’s successor. Had she not lost her seat in 2015 Esther McVey would have almost certainly joined the cabinet in 2015 and could have been a potential successor to David Cameron.

Currently Esther McVey is 20/1 with Ladbrokes as next out of the cabinet, that price won’t last long I suspect.



It is clear someone is leaking to damage Amber Rudd and I think she’s toast

Sunday, April 29th, 2018

Mrs May’s firewall looks like toast after this Guardian revelation

In the past few days it is obvious that someone is leaking relentlessly against Amber Rudd to force her out.

It might be the fact that I tipped Amber Rudd as next out of the cabinet at 33/1 is colouring my view but I’m not sure she’s going to recover from this Guardian revelation, they say

The private letter from Amber Rudd to Downing Street in which she sets an “ambitious but deliverable” target for an increase in the enforced deportation of immigrants has been published by the Guardian.

The letter, signed by the home secretary in January last year, states that she is refocusing work within her department to achieve the “aim of increasing the number of enforced removals by more than 10% over the next few years”.

Rudd has claimed she did not set, see or approve any targets for removals. The former immigration minister Brandon Lewis suggested on Sunday this proposed increase was an ambition rather than a target.

But Home Office sources have told the Guardian that it is “shame-faced nonsense” to claim the department had not been set specific targets in this area, or that these have not been regularly discussed at the highest levels.

The latest furore was sparked on Friday when the Guardian published details from a separate confidential memo that was sent to Rudd in June last year.

Over the weekend another leak confirmed that Amber Rudd is going to offer a post Brexit freedom of movement which some say is in effect Brexit in name only. The Sunday Times reported ‘A member of the European Research Group, the hardline Brexiteers led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, said: “The plan seems to be to re-badge what we’ve got at the moment, so that no control would have been taken back.”’

Rudd faces the Commons tomorrow I think will be quite difficult for her to survive, if she’s eviscerated by her own side over her mis-remembering the targets or over the BINO immigration policy. She currently comes across as either very incompetent or mendacious which is not a good look.

If you’ve bet on Amber Rudd to be still Home Secretary on Tuesday then you should be worried.


PS – My tip for Amber Rudd’s replacement is Sajid Javid who was 33/1 on Friday and is now 16/1. Mrs May might appoint him to help counter the perception that the Tories are being the nasty party again. The optics of a non white son of a immigrant Windrush generation bus driver trying to sort out the Windrush deportations mess are appealing. As a long serving cabinet minister he has the experience to be Home Secretary.

10.05pm Update – Amber Rudd has resigned


Will Fox return to the cabinet?

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

How long will Cameron keep him on the backbenches?

David Blunkett, Peter Mandelson (twice), Michael Heseltine, Anthony Eden, Harold Wilson and Winston Churchill all did it. They are among the few to return to the cabinet after having previously resigned for something other than electoral defeat. After Fox’s departure this week, the question is whether he’ll buck the odds and join the select band.

It is not likely to be an easy route. After nearly 18 months in office, Cameron has made no optional reshuffles and when events have forced him to change the line-up, he has made only the most minimal movement. As the best period for a reshuffle is around the summer recess, with most of the year’s legislation through and giving ministers maximum time to get to grips with their briefs before parliament resumes, it’s reasonable to assume that the PM isn’t planning anything major before next Summer, which if it happens may be the only significant shift of personnel all parliament.

A lack of ministerial continuity impedes the delivery of policy but the existence of the coalition is a bigger reason not to reshuffle much this time. Members of both parties, as well as outside observers, will be watching closely to see who has won and who’s lost out in any reshuffle. If portfolios end up being moved from a Lib Dem to a Tory or vice versa there will inevitably be complaints that their side has been unfairly treated, with any number of pet theories to explain why. All in all, best not to any more than is necessary.

Gus O’Donnell’s report seems likely to state that Fox broke the ministerial code but didn’t gain financially. If so, that’s not necessarily a career-ending position. An apology and a period of penance will suffice as punishment. But to be eligible does not mean the call will come.

For one thing, there’s new talent that will be jostling for a place at the top table. Government and opposition demand different skills and the PM may prefer to bring through some from the second rank who’ve taken to government most naturally, especially if the opportunities to do so are few and far between.

On the other hand, Fox is still seen by some a leader of the Tory right and as such, a political heavyweight to be kept within the Big Tent. I’m not convinced the reality matches the received wisdom. Fox’s foreign policy stance may be Atlanticist but the cuts he accepted at Defence and his time as Shadow Health Secretary do not mark him down as particularly hardline. Besides, the kind of factional balancing implied by this sort of thinking is much less necessary after a long spell in opposition and in the constraining situation of a coalition government.

Fox is only 50, which does give him plenty of time to return, especially if the Conservatives win an outright majority after the next election, freeing up five cabinet places from the Lib Dems. Before then, his best chance may ironically be that very lack of movement imposed by the dynamics of coalition. As a backbencher with cabinet experience, he’s an option to parachute straight in should another Tory minister resign, so avoiding a knock-on reshuffle. Even so, I wouldn’t give him more than about one chance in five of a comeback before the election.

David Herdson


Who won and who lost from the Fox-hunt?

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

Wikimedia Commons

Where do the week’s events leave the Next Tory Leader market?

After the kill, politics moves on quickly. With Fox having resigned, the media interest in what his friend Adam Werritty did, knew, and where the funding for it came from is likely to dwindle rapidly. There may be further revelations this weekend because the media will have invested in the investigation but that should then be that. Even if Gus O’Donnell’s report is made public, the coverage will be buried deep in the inside pages, or their electronic equivalent.

Interestingly, Liam Fox is still 25/1 with Ladbrokes to be the next Tory leader, and much shorter odds with some other firms. It is certainly possible for former ministers to return to the cabinet after a resignation and Fox’s offence is not of itself a career-ending one. However, there have been rumours on several occasions of Fox leaking in ways unhelpful to Cameron which is unlikely to mean the PM will be as keen for his return as say Blair was for Mandelson to come back.

In addition, the nature of the coalition government means reshuffles are likely to be less frequent and smaller in scope, limiting the second chances available. Fox will in all probability still be around after the next election but even if the Conservatives lose office then, for him to mount a leadership campaign after four years on the backbenches will put him at an immediate disadvantage. The only benefit for him is that he can now speak with a ‘true’ Conservative voice. I’m still not buying.

By contrast, it’s been a good week for Philip Hammond, who has received a promotion and bolstered a reputation for being a safe pair of hands. Even so, the best odds for him (28/1, Paddy Power) are longer than the best for Fox. He may not fire some of the activists as Fox does but as Mike’s piece yesterday pointed out, he already has the look of a fix-it minister and could well rise higher. It is not inconceivable that he could follow the John Major route to the top. That said, even 28/1 feels short. He would only be a candidate for an in-government transition and at 56 this year may be too old unless there’s a vacancy this parliament or early next.

While I predicted on Monday that if Fox resigned, Hammond would replace him, Bob Sykes went one better in the same thread and accurately suggested Justine Greening to fill Hammond’s former position at Transport. Picking future leaders from long-range is always difficult but she’s been an assured performer since first being elected in 2005 and will be of the right age and experience should a vacancy arise any time after the next election. The 40/1 on offer with Hills is not a bad long-term bet.

One reason for that is the unusual lack of obvious candidates in the cabinet. It says something that Boris Johnson is the favourite with the bookies (though not Betfair, where George Osborne heads the field in very thin trading), to succeed David Cameron as Conservative leader. Boris is not even in parliament, and cannot be so for at least five years without either losing the mayorality to Ken Livingstone or standing down mid-term, neither of which would advance his cause. Even then the route is far from simple and there’s also the significant point that the personal and political qualities and skill-set required of a mayor are not the same as those of a party leader.

Having said that, it’s not impossible that Cameron could serve at least two full terms, in which case almost anything could happen in between. Picking any future party leader is hard enough but the next Tory leader has historically been the trickiest of the lot. It would have taken formidable predictive powers to have identified any of the Conservative leaders after Macmillan as the next one even four years before they took on the leadership, never mind more.

Two other people in this round-up deserve mention. Firstly, the week’s lucky loser, Oliver Letwin. Ordinarily, being caught as he was would have created a much bigger fuss. He was extremely fortunate for his story to break just as the pressure on Fox reached its peak. Secondly, Chris Huhne, now back as favourite to be the next cabinet minister to resign. Fox leaving probably makes his position marginally worse. Had Fox toughed it out, it would have upped the level of misdemeanour required for anyone else to go. That said, the lesson from this market is that over the course of, say, a year there are far more favourites than payouts.

David Herdson


Marf on today’s big news

Friday, October 14th, 2011



Tonight’s Marf Cartoon…

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

If you would like to purchase one of Marf’s prints, please contact her at

(Note from Double Carpet: There will be no NightHawks tonight, but it should return tomorrow with the usual well-stocked range of comments.)


Defence Questions – Live Thread

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Contains Parliamentary information licensed under the Open Parliament Licence v1.0


Does the Fox hunt end today?

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Is Cameron about to lose his first Tory Cabinet Minister?

Today is decision day for Liam Fox and David Cameron. This morning, the interim report on Fox’s conduct in his friendship with Adam Werritty lands on the PM’s desk; at 2.30pm it is Defence Questions in the Commons. That puts tremendous pressure on both men. Cameron can only allow Fox to go to the House if he is confident that there is no resignation offence flagged up in the report and also that none is likely. Should Fox subsequently resign anyway, it will be much more damaging for the prime minister than an ordered early dismissal or resignation. On the other hand, almost any resignation is more damaging than successfully toughing it out.

The usual rule for these ‘event’ markets is that the value is in betting against it: since the election, there were moments of significant pressure for Clarke, Huhne and Cable to go. None did, though of course Laws resigned early on. That said, the 5/4 on offer at Ladbrokes at the time of writing for Fox to be the next cabinet minister out still seems to offer a little value. He is already close to the edge and further revelations of a similar nature would make the momentum close to irresistible and deeply damaging to him even if he did somehow survive, meaning he’d remain vulnerable.

Unlike the earlier speculation surrounding the other ministers, this is not merely a political falling out with colleagues nor an investigation that’s taken months to run its course. Fox’s future is not within his own hands, nor entirely those of the prime minister. It is largely dependent on whether more of the sort of foolish behaviour for which he has already apologised turns up. “Sorry” generally only works once.

It follows that Cameron may be forced into a reshuffle today. If so, the likelihood is of relatively minimal changes. The best time to conduct reshuffles is in June or July, to give ministers maximum time to get to grips with their brief before parliament resumes. If the PM had wanted to move some out or around, he would have done so.

Possible replacements for Fox aren’t that easy to identify. It has to be someone clearly capable of taking on a big and challenging department but who is not tied up delivering a major project elsewhere, who the prime minister will see as reliable (preferably a Tory), and who is not already in a more senior role. There’s no market I’ve seen for Next Defence Secretary but were I setting one, the favourite would be Philip Hammond and then Owen Paterson.

David Herdson