Some of the 2019 intake are given their first Government posts

There were 107 new Conservative MPs elected on December 12th. They can be forgiven if they are yet to fully master the navigation and protocol of Parliament and the Government Departments in and around Whitehall. Yet several of them have already been appointed Parliamentary Private Secretaries following the recent reshuffle of Ministerial posts.

Some regard the role of PPS as thankless. It is unpaid. Yet it does prohibit voting against or publicly criticising the Government. As the Ministerial Code puts it, they are expected to “avoid associating themselves with recommendations critical of or embarrassing to the government”. But in private they are expected to pass on the criticism of their colleagues as well as seeking to placate such critics. It is something of an apprenticeship. They are subordinate, sometimes termed “bag carriers”, but they are in the room, seeing how the process works.

John Bercow mocked the role when in 2013 he told Gavin Williamson, then David Cameron’s PPS:

“Can I just say to the Prime Minister’s PPS, his role is to nod his head in the appropriate places, and to fetch and carry notes – no noise required.”

But now Williamson is the Education Secretary. Where is Bercow?

Several new appointees over the weekend are women. That reflects assurances that Boris Johnson is keen to “set the foundations” for a gender-balanced Cabinet in the future. The last time an official list of PPS appointments was published was last June, when Theresa May was Prime Minister. At that stage, there were 34 of them. I’m told an update will be published in due course. Usually, there is one for a Secretary of State and another for the general Ministerial team.

Recent announcements include:

Harry Cole, in the Mail on Sunday, reports that 14 new PPSs have been chosen, all women. So presumably more names will emerge…

In December it was announced that Trudy Harrison, the MP for Copeland, was appointed as the Prime Minister’s PPS.


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Author: Harry Phibbs

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