Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Nothing like a good bit of Whipping...
David Cameron's first appointment as leader was to install Patrick McLoughlin as his Chief Whip. This did not come as a great surprise to many, although the emollient Oliver Heald was talked of as a late runner for the post. It would have been a high risk move on DC's part to choose the chief henchman of a possible future rival (ie Liam Fox). Perhaps someone whispered the words Tim and Renton in his ear. Older readers will remember that Tim Renton was Margaret Thatcher's Chief Whip at the time of her downfall and he was a close confidante of Geoffrey Howe. I published Renton's memoirs, originally titled Chief Whip (!), and expressing total amazement at his admission in the book that he hadn't voted for La Thatch in the first round of voting. After a fairly direct debate I told him he should have resigned. After all, she appointed him to the position and had a right to expect his total loyalty. While I have no doubt that he carried out his duties perfectly properly, he should have gone one step further than that and protected her position. I suspect he now thinks he should have done the decent thing. Funnily enough, though, if he had done so it might actually have made things worse for her. S' a funny old world!
But back to Patrick McLoughlin. Patrick is terribly nice, although I'm told he can be a bit of a bully. Good. He'll need to be. I first came across him when he was a Junior Transport Minister in the early 1990s when I was lobbying on the ports privatisation bill. I liked him very much (he has a wicked sense of humour) but I must admit I wouldn't have identified him as a future Chief Whip then, but he's developed what some people call 'bottom'.
Speculation is that one of DC's chief cheerleaders Andrew Robothan is going to be the new Deputy Chief Whip. I don't know him personally, but it would be a little odd to appoint a Deputy Chief Whip who has never served in the Whip's Office at all.