In manner, Sir George Young is as dry as dust (and very droll). In politics, he isn’t always quite so arid: the man who is now Chief Whip was a leading poll tax rebel during the Thatcher era. He has been in and out of Government, on and off the Opposition front bench, and a candidate for the Speakership of the Commons. He would have been a far less egotistical and far more fair occupant of the post, though he might have speeded the business up less and would probably have granted fewer urgent questions (one of Bercow’s strengths). That Sir George has announced his retirement in 2015 will come as no surprise – he will be over 70 at the next election. He is a dedicated servant of the Consevative Party, and will be missed. Sir George is also the only Conservative MP who has ever pinched my bottom (to date).
I doubt that he will have wanted to return as Chief Whip, a move brought about by Andrew Mitchell’s resignation. On the whole, it is unlikely that he will remain in post until 2015. David Cameron will surely have a Cabinet-level reshuffle next summer, and a voluntary departure – which one by Sir George would be – would make the undertaking just a little easier. The front-runner as his successor must now be his deputy, Greg Hands, who was promoted from among the whips at the last reshuffle. The energetic Hands is one of the few MPs who takes the fight to Labour on Twitter. He is also a former member of Team Osborne, as the Chancellor’s PPS earlier in the Parliament, which may turn out to be even more important. I wrote pre-reshuffle that Hands could be made deputy: watch this space.