By Matthew Barrett
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Until the reshuffle, Patrick McLoughlin had been a whip for 15 years, serving six leaders, and two Prime Ministers – which explains why his media appearances have been few and far between. In his first big interview since being appointed Secretary of State for Transport, Mr McLoughlin has denied being appointed simply to see a third runway through, and insists he is "open-minded".
The first point of interest in Mr McLoughlin's interview with the Evening Standard is the news that Boris Johnson's omnipresence continues – he has seemingly extended his powers over transport in London:
"He has already had London’s Mayor lobbying him. “I was talking to him this morning and we agreed to set up a working party between the department and the Mayor to look at some of the transport issues he wants to develop. So, I look forward to having a good relationship with Boris.” Officials from City Hall and the Department of Transport will meet regularly under the plan, giving the Mayor a formal input into the Whitehall machine, though it is not the devolution that Mr Johnson really wants."
The second, and major, point of interest is his declaration of being open to different options for airport expansion:
"Mr McLoughlin insists he is open-minded and asks people to trust the independent commission headed by Sir Howard Davies, set up to review aviation policy. “I’m not going to say what it should do. But I hope people will see it as a very serious piece of work. It will look at all the options, be it Boris’s scheme, the Foster scheme, and others, and hopefully people will come to accept and respect it.”"
Mr McLoughlin does not have good news for fuel-price campaigners, however, saying an increase in fuel duty is necessary:
"With another inflation-busting fares hike rise in the new year, is he lobbying George Osborne against it? He will not say, but points out: “Don’t forget we are putting a huge amount of money into the railways.” On the 3p fuel duty increase set for New Year’s Day, he insisted: “I’d be very happy if we didn’t have to raise taxes but the truth is we’ve got to balance the books.”"
Finally, Mr McLoughlin is rarely mentioned without it being noted that he is a former miner. The trend continues today:
"“Am I proud of my background? Yes I am. I worked in the same pit that my dad did, though he died when I was very young. I think it helps that politicians come from all walks of life.” He disagrees with the attack by fellow Conservative MP Nadine Dorries on the number of “toffs” in the Cabinet. “William Hague went to a comprehensive, so did others. I think David [Cameron] has tried to take people best suited to their jobs and no one has been held back by their backgrounds.”"
One might make the point that the allegation is not that working class MPs have been deliberately held back, but that more public and private schoolboys have been promoted.