With the Government shedding ministers at a rate of knots, and the Party struggling to attract even donors so long as Theresa May remains in post, it is perhaps unsurprising that she is struggling to fill positions on the payroll.
It nonetheless reflects on the remarkable extent to which patronage – one of the key instruments in any Prime Minister’s arsenal – has lost nearly all of its power under the current administration.
The Institute for Government have been keeping tabs on which positions have gone unfilled, and the results are truly remarkable. They count eight ministerial or under-secretarial posts vacant, although these at least have only been open for a few weeks. They identify another 11 vacant PPS positions, some of which have been unfilled since November.
Government Posts (8):
- Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (DExEU) – Vacated by Chris Heaton-Harris
- Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Wales) – Vacated by Nigel Adams
- Assistant Whip – Vacated by Nigel Adams
- Minister for the Middle East (Foreign Office) – Vacated by Alistair Burt
- Minister of State (DfID) – Vacated by Alistair Burt
- Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Health & Social Care) – Vacated by Steve Brine
- Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Business and Industrial Strategy) – Vacated by Richard Harrington
- Minister of State for Disabled People (DWP) – Vacated by Sarah Newton
Wider Payroll (13):
This list shows no fewer than 11 PPS positions open: Home Office, Justice, Transport, Housing, Brexit, Culture, Treasury, Education, and Defence, as well as personal aides to the Housing Secretary and Leader in the Lords. Such posts are usually the first few steps on the career ladder for an ambitious MP, and it is extremely telling that the Prime Minister is unable to fill such posts even in particularly prestigious departments such as the MoD or the Treasury.