Serving as a minister’s Parliamentary Private Secretary is the lowest rung of government job – lacking both pay and glamour, it is effectively a ministerial internship by which backbench MPs gain the benefit of some insight into how things work and build up contacts across the parliamentary party.
As such, it’s unsurprising that your average PPS tends to be relatively recently elected to the Commons. Of the 41 new PPS appointees, selected following the summer shuffle, 20 are MPs from the 2015 intake. We should also count Robert Jenrick as one of the new generation, given he was elected to Parliament in the 2014 Newark by-election (though he has served as a PPS since shortly after his election, he is still a more recent MP), so that makes 21.
I’ve listed them all below, should readers wonder exactly who they are. But it’s also worth crunching the numbers to see if we can glean anything about the new government’s priorities when picking people for promotion.
Strikingly, only two of their number – Mims Davies and Tom Pursglove – campaigned for Leave in the referendum. Given that around 40 per cent of the 2015 intake were Leavers, it seems more than a coincidence that they should have secured less than ten per cent of the PPS spots.
The referendum breakdown isn’t the only noticeable pattern – indeed, it might be an inadvertent symptom of other criteria for choosing MPs to bump up to a PPS post. Consider the numbers another way. Of the 21 PPS’s drawn from the new generation, 19 publicly supported a candidate in the final round of the leadership election. All but one of those endorsed May, a strike rate of just under 95 per cent. (The outlier is Pursglove, who backed Leadsom.)
There is another characteristic that is disproportionately represented among the new intake PPS’s (disproportionate to the composition of the Conservative benches, that is – not to wider society): more than half are women. Over half (12, to be precise) of the new intake PPS’s are female MPs, who make up just over a third of the 2015 intake. That certainly makes sense – if the Prime Minister intends to continue to improve the gender balance of the front bench, then she needs to start by putting more women onto the bottom rung of the career ladder.
Given that this list can be interpreted as a sign of who is starting up the proverbial greasy pole, it’s surprising that some names are missing. Earlier this year, Total Politics Editor David Singleton picked out some of the new intake as rising stars. Half of those he named are on the PPS list, a pretty good hit rate, but the remaining half include some striking omissions. Chris Philp, Johnny Mercer, James Cleverly, Nus Ghani, Rishi Sunak, Tom Tugendhat, Kit Malthouse, Oliver Dowden and James Cartlidge all have valuable talents and experience to offer – from the military to business to local government – so their absence seems like a loss to the Government. Whether they were overlooked or whether they turned down jobs is yet to be revealed.
The full list
Edward Argar MP, PPS to Nick Gibb, Department for Education
Victoria Atkins MP, PPS to Brandon Lewis, Home Office
James Berry MP, PPS to Philip Dunne, Department of Health
Jo Churchill MP, PPS to Mike Penning, Ministry of Defence
Mims Davies MP, PPS to Matt Hancock, Department for Culture, Media and Sport
Lucy Frazer MP, PPS to Ben Gummer, Cabinet Office
Peter Heaton-Jones MP, PPS to Penny Mordaunt, Department of Work and Pensions
Simon Hoare MP, PPS to George Eustice, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Kevin Hollinrake MP, PPS to David Lidington, Leader of the House of Commons
Robert Jenrick MP, PPS to Elizabeth Truss, Ministry of Justice
Seema Kennedy MP, PPS to Nick Gibb, Department for Education
Amanda Milling MP, PPS to Baroness Anelay, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Wendy Morton MP, PPS to Jo Johnson, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Rebecca Pow MP, PPS to Gavin Barwell, Department for Communities and Local Government
Victoria Prentis MP, PPS to John Hayes, Department for Transport
Tom Pursglove MP, PPS to Ben Wallace MP, Home Office
Jeremy Quin, PPS to David Jones, Department for Exiting the European Union
Amanda Solloway MP, PPS to Rory Stewart, Department for International Development
Kelly Tolhurst MP, PPS to Priti Patel, Department for International Development
Helen Whately MP, PPS to Greg Hands, Department for International Trade
Craig Williams MP, PPS to David Gauke, HM Treasury