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:
- Natalie Elphicke, the MP for Dover and Deal, is the PPS to the Ministers of Housing, Communities and Local Government [pictured].
- Fay Jones, the MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, is the PPS to the Ministerial team at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
- Angela Richardson, the MP for Guildford, is the PPS to Ministers at the Department for Education.
- Jo Gideon, the MP for Stoke on Trent Central, is the PPS to Ministers at the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.
- Jane Hunt, the MP for Loughborough, is the PPS to Ministers at the Cabinet Office.
- Sarah Atherton, the MP for Wrexham, is the PPS at the Wales Office.
- Ruth Edwards, the MP for Rushcliffe, is the PPS to the Secretary of State for Scotland.
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.
A man has been appointed
- Jack Brereton, the MP for Stoke-on-Trent South, is the PPS to the Defence Secretary.
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Author: Harry Phibbs
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