By Tim Montgomerie
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In the forthcoming reshuffle one of the Cabinet ministers likeliest to get the chop is the Secretary of State for Wales Cheryl Gillan. Cheryl has been a good fighter for Wales in Cabinet, delivering the referendum on extra powers for the Cardiff Assembly that Labour did not, won railways investment and secured S4C's future. Nonetheless, there has been speculation that Maria Miller MP might replace her. David Cameron is anxious to retain the same number of women at the Government's top table. Ms Miller, like Ms Gillan, represents an English seat (Basingstoke) but was educated in Wales. Don't get me wrong – I think Ms Miller has been an effective minister and is a good TV performer – but it would be a mistake to appoint her to oversee Gwydyr House.
In terms of electoral priorities at the next election Wales should be a top priority for the Conservatives. Predictably, there are no signs that Ruth Davidson is making any progress for the party in Scotland. Ms Davidson has many qualities but the leader of the Scottish Tories is essentially following the same failed strategy of her predecessors. As Murdo Fraser warned in his unsuccessful bid to give the Scottish party a completely new start, the definition of insanity is, to quote Einstein, "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".
If we are unlikely to make much progress in Scotland it's vital that we continue to prosper in Wales. This is essential for our hopes of a majority and also for our one nation credentials.
At the last election Wales returned eight Tory MPs to Westminster compared to none in 1997. The eight are impressive. They've all got significant local credentials and like many of the Tory MPs who've won seats in rrcent years, they're good campaigners. The Liberal Democrat MP Michael Moore is Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for Wales should be one of the Welsh Tory MPs, undistracted from also having to represent an English constituency. If this happens it would be the first time since 1987, when Nicholas Edwards was the Tory SoS.
I've already suggested Stephen Crabb for the post. From a humble background, bright and good on TV, the MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire has been serving in the Whip's Office. Alongside Andrew R T Davies (who recently called for the Cardiff Assembly to be renamed a Parliament) and our energetic team of AMs he'd be an ideal person to represent the party in the Welsh media from now until the election time and help maximise our party's vote and appeal. He's not of course the only credible candidate. Welsh junior minister David Jones and former leader of Tory MEPs, Jonathan Evans, also have particularly strong claims for promotion. Nick Bourne should be elevated to the Lords too, as soon as possible. He lost his seat at the last Assembly elections but has worked heroically for the party and for Wales.
A 100% Welsh Welsh Secretary can build on the Coalition's big commitments to Wales that have included significant investments in the country's railways. A new Welsh Secretary could also lead fights for a new Barnett formula. The formula currently benefits Scotland relative to Wales' poor communities. If UK public expenditure was distributed according to needs rather than out-of-date calculations Wales could benefit by approximately £400 million.
Another big pro-Wales project might be the revival of the Severn estuary barrage. This is not without some strong opponents within Wales, but David Cameron is apparently considering it. Funded by private and sovereign investments it could deliver 20,000 to 30,000 jobs and provide 5% of the UK's energy needs but is opposed by some wildlife charities.
A Conservative Secretary of State plus rail investment plus £400 million of new Barnett funds plus the Severn construction project could add up to a big pro-Wales message for the party to take into the next general election. Let's begin with the appointment of a Welsh Tory Welsh Secretary in a Welsh seat. It's too good an opportunity to miss.