After Dr Philip Lee’s dramatic resignation on Tuesday – in the noble cause of abstaining on crucial amendments to the Withdrawal Bill – the Prime Minister has faced the crucial decision of who should replace him.
The question matters more than it might usually thanks to the razor-thin Parliamentary arithmetic. The payroll vote is a key source of strength for the Government – as our analysis of how MPs broke down before the referendum illustrated.
In the end she has chosen Edward Argar, one of the Class of 2015.
It looks like a safe choice. As we noted in our profile, he has a conventional background for a Tory candidate – businessman, Westminster councillor – and he served as PPS to Amber Rudd during her stint as Home Secretary.
But this caution is, in a way, a bold choice. Argar has no record of rebelling against the current Government, according to They Work For You. That means that his appointment does not help to shore up Theresa May’s position in the Commons.
Perhaps the Prime Minister simply wanted to avoid giving the next Dr Lee their moment in the sun, or has more faith than most that the deal she struck on Tuesday will hold. But either way, she has not used the patronage of the payroll as she might have.
Nor, we note, has she taken the opportunity to appoint another woman into the Government’s ranks. More evidence, perhaps, that May’s defensive posture is overshadowing other political considerations.