Iain Dale is an LBC presenter, a commentator with CNN and the author/editor of over 30 books.
Each year for the last 11 years, I have convened panels to compile lists of the Top 50 Liberal Democrats, the Top 100 Most Influential People on the Left, and the Top 100 Most Influential People on the Right.
This year, due to workload, I have wimped out of doing the LibDems and Left lists. I’ve also amended the title of this one and renamed it the Top 100 Most Influential Conservatives. To be included, you have to self-identify as a Conservative. So anyone associated with UKIP or the alt-Right is no longer eligible for inclusion. I’ve also decided to include journalists and commentators for the first time, most of whom would not have been on the list last year. I’ve not included broadcasters and journalists such as Nick Ferrari, Julia Hartley-Brewer or Peter Hitchens as, although they’re undoubtedly on the right, they don’t self identify as Conservative Party supporters, whereas Andrew Pierce, Matthew d’Ancona and James Forsyth do. Unless I’m mistaken!
The most difficult thing when deciding who to include an exclude, is to define what ‘influence’ actually means. In the end it means being influential in a combination of national politics, the media, on the Conservative Party and its leader.
In all, there are 30 new entries in the whole list, one down on last year and two down on the 2016 record of 33. Out go Philip May (the Prime Minister in her House Magazine with James Cleverly herself said he exerted no influence on her!), Michael Fallon, Justine Greening, Katie Hopkins, Greg Hands, Suella Fernandes, Patrick McLoughlin, Eric Pickles, Zac Goldsmith, Nigel Farage, Syed Kamal, Arron Banks and Jo Johnson among others.
Penny Mordaunt is the highest new entry at 15, while Julian Smith and Matt Hancock both go straight into the top twenty.
Interestingly, the number of the women in this year’s list has inceased from 23 to 30, the highest ever. However, only three make the top 20. There are only six members of an ethnic minority in the list.
The highest climber is Sajid Javid who climbs 63 places into the top ten, having plummeted to 73 last year. Damian Green is the biggest loser in this list, falling 27 places to 33.
Theresa May remains at number one by dint of the fact that she’s still there. She’s been incredibly resilient and just when you think she may be toast, she bounces back. It’s a great quality to have. She’s also helped that there’s still no preeminent obvious successor. Some will think that Boris Johnson should be higher on this list, but when you think about influence you have to bear in mind that if he can’t convince his fellow MPs he’s the coming man, then is he likely to convince anyone else? He will make a lot of bluster at the conference, but to what end? He knows if he is seen to trigger a formal leadership challenge – whatever form that would take – he’s unlikely to be forgiven for it with only a few weeks to go until the final Brexit talks.
Also of note are the rises of key Number Ten advisers Gavin Barwell and Robbie Gibb. Nothing happens in Downing Street unless they agree to it. They don’t quite have the power that used to be wielded by Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, but they are certainly the powers behind the throne. They have also opened up and recognised that they need to bring people with them. They recently held briefing sessions on the Chequers deal, in an attempt to sell it to MPs, the voluntary party and right of centre journalists. It may not have worked, but a lot of people appreciated the fact they’d even done it. It wouldn’t have happened in previous administrations.
In some ways, despite the 30 new entries, this is very much a steady as she goes list, with few dramatic rises or falls. We suspect that next year’s list may be altogether different…
1. (-) Theresa May
Last year we described Theresa May as “clinging to power like a limpet”. Despite various crises she’s still there and shows no signs of going anywhere. Her main strength is the lack of a credible replacement and with every word that Boris Johnson utters, Conservative MPs adopt the mantra of “stick to nurse for fear of worse”. The next two months are the most crucial of her premiership. If she emerges with a Brexit deal which all parts of the Party can support she will have confounded every one of her critics and she will feel she has the right to take the Tories into the next election. But once we’ve left the EU on March 29th many MPs will feel she has become expendable.
2. (+16) David Lidington
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster & Minister for the Cabinet Office
Popular with MPs on all sides of the House, Lidders – as he is known – had spent six years as Europe Minister and if anyone deserved a move and a promotion it was him. After a year as Leader of the House he replaced the hapless Liz Truss as Justice Secretary in the post-election June reshuffle but didn’t stay there long. He replaced Damian Green as the effective Deputy Prime Minister and in a recent interview he described his job as “keeping the plates spinning”. He chairs seven cabinet committees and sits on 20. He is as close as anyone to Theresa May and makes it his business to ensure she knows he is her most reliable ally. He even went to meet her at RAF Northolt when she returned from the disastrous Salzburg summit.
3. (+4) Gavin Barwell
Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister
By common consent one of the nicest people in politics, he bounced back from losing his Croydon seat to replace Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill as the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff. He’s made Downing Street a happier place to work, even if Conservative MPs complain he doesn’t reply to their texts. One of the chief architects of the Chequers deal, he is the one who has made it his business to sell it to his Party colleagues, MPs and voluntary party representatives. He’s not been entirely successful in this endeavour. A powerful influence in reshuffles, it is said it was he who insisted Matt Hancock was promoted to Health Secretary.
4. (+5) Robbie Gibb
Director of Communications, Number Ten
Robbie Gibb may not be as close to Theresa May personally as Fiona Hill was, but since his appointment just over a year ago he has introduced a totally new atmosphere and competence into Number Ten. His alliance with Gavin Barwell is strong, and together they have directed the whole Chequers strategy and the rubbishing of Canada+. Time will tell if they were right to do so, but it is clear to everyone that the Prime Minister does nothing without the agreement and encouragement of the Gibb/Barwell axis, and that is why they have both risen in this year’s list.
5. (-) Philip Hammond
Chancellor of the Exchequer
We were tempted to reduce Philip Hammond’s standing in the list this year, but he’s still there and is virtually unfireable. He still feels free to demonstrate his Eeyorish qualities from time to time and is happy to breach the normal rules on criticising his own Government’s policy on Brexit. Theresa May has tired of his interventions but knows she can do little about them. The Treasury remains all-powerful in Whitehall and it’s difficult to think of a minister who has got the better of the Chancellor in the last year.
6. (-2) Graham Brady
Chairman, 1922 Committee
Brady is the keeper of the letters from Tory MPs expressing no confidence in their leader. No one knows how many there are, but in many ways Theresa May’s job lies in his hands. Last year we said she should beware if she ever spots him wearing a grey suit, but we do know that Brady is one man at least who speaks truth unto the Prime Minister. Their meetings and conversations are rather more regular than they were under her predecessor.
7. (+6) Michael Gove
Secretary of State for DEFRA
Michael Gove has become one of the Prime Minister’s chief cheerleaders. Make of that what you will. He’s had a brilliant year in many ways, giving his department a hitherto unheard-of profile, and coming up with all sorts of eye-catching policy initiatives. If there were a leadership election tomorrow, and assuming he stood, there’s a high chance he’d make it to the membership ballot. He is one of the few potential candidates who could win support from across the Party.
8. (-5) Ruth Davidson
Leader, Scottish Conservatives
Ruth Davidson falls slightly in this list, purely because of her recent declaration that she doesn’t want to come down to Westminster or stand for the party leadership at any stage. She will concentrate her efforts on winning the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections, which to most people looks like a very tall order. However, there is no doubt that the SNP fear her. Her big challenge will be to ensure that any disgruntled ex-SNP voters go to her, rather than the Scottish Labour Party.
9. (+13) Jeremy Hunt
Last year we said that Jeremy Hunt had had a quieter year. The last twelve months have been anything but and have seen him appointed to one of the great offices of state. He’s had a very good start at the Foreign Office, although some believe he is making his leadership ambitions a little too evident. Popular among new MPs, his new-found enthusiasm for Brexit could make him worth a bet as a dark horse in any future leadership contest. His strength, especially among MPs, is his transparent niceness and ability to listen.
10. (+63) Sajid Javid
When Amber Rudd resigned, many people tipped Sajid Javid to replace her at the Home Office. Some cynics say he was appointed partly due to the ‘optics’ of appointing a non-white politician in the wake of the Windrush scandal, but that would be to undercook the abilities of Sajid Javid. Theresa May appointed him despite having intended to sack him for disloyalty after the 2017 election. He’s had a very strong start in the job, although critics say this is more about PR than substance. Sajid needs to work on his emotional intelligence with his MP colleagues if he is to be a serious contender for the top job, but at the moment he’d be our bet to be in the top two, along with Michael Gove.
11. (+42) Jacob Rees-Mogg
MP for North East Somerset, Chairman of the European Research Group
Moggmentum shows no sign of abating. Rees-Mogg has proven hugely popular with the public and Party members because of his authenticity. However, leadership talk is ridiculous, as he himself has acknowledged. He is the go-to Eurosceptic for the media, much to the frustration of some of his colleagues. Rees-Mogg may never be king but he is in a very good position to be one of the leading kingmakers.
12. (+9) Brandon Lewis
Conservative Party Chairman
Last year we tipped Brandon Lewis as “possibly a successor to Patrick McLoughlin as party chairman”. Not that we’re gloating. He rises in the list this year, partly down to that appointment, but also because of his closeness to the Prime Minister. He’s one of five people to attend the 8.30am meeting each day with her. He’s made some key changes at CCHQ, revamped the candidates list and is making it his business to connect with party members. After all, he rose through their ranks.
13. (-1) Boris Johnson
Former Foreign Secretary
Boris Johnson had a torrid time as Foreign Secretary and left office in July with few people thinking he had covered himself in glory. Since then he has lost few opportunities to keep his profile high and criticise the prime minister. Last year we said “his stock in Parliament and in the wider voluntary party appears to be on the wane, even if he is the only Conservative still to have rock star status. Well, apart from JRM.” We suspect his popularity in the voluntary party may be recovering somewhat but he has lost further ground among his parliamentary colleagues. His hijab letterbox comments were a disgrace, and his apparent flirtations with Steve Bannon have frustrated even his strongest supporters. This year is shit or bust for Boris, and we feel it’s likely to be the latter.
14. (+1) Liam Fox
Secretary of State for International Trade
Liam Fox has proved the most enduring of the three original Brexiteers in the Cabinet. He has remained a strong supporter of Theresa May’s strategy even though in theory Chequers could scupper his attempts to start negotiating new trade deals. He’s been very quiet on the media front of late, but if a Brexit deal is done, he’s going to be one of the key players in the post-Brexit future.
15. (NEW) Penny Mordaunt
Secretary of State for International Development
The highest new entry in this year’s list, Penny Mordaunt is developing as an outside bet in any future leadership contest. With the departure of Amber Rudd, she’s likely to be the leading female candidate. Endowed with a great sense of humour, Mordaunt is very popular among her parliamentary colleagues but she has yet to prove herself in a big department. She appears to have got a grip on DfID, but she’ll need to make some speeches confirming what people would actually be voting for if she stood.
16. (+12) Dominic Raab
Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union
Dominic Raab refused a job in Theresa May’s initial team, but was made Minister for Housing after last June’s election. Most people were surprised when she appointed him to replace David Davis, given he’s a protégé of his. He’s made a very good start in his first three months, even if his department’s role has been weakened. If he gets a Brexit deal, expect his stock to rise and become a serious leadership contender.
17. (-15) David Davis
Former Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union
Once seen as the natural ‘fall under a bus’ candidate should Theresa May quit, Davis had remained publicly very loyal to the Prime Minister since his appointment but he became increasingly disillusioned at the Prime Minister’s approach to the Brexit negotiations, and especially by the influence wielded on her by his former Permanent Secretary Olly Robbins. Chequers was the last straw and he executed a principled resignation. The question is, can he be more influential out of government than he was in?
18. (NEW) Matthew Hancock
Secretary of State for Health
His tiggerish performance at DDCMS impressed Number Ten, and in particular Gavin Barwell. One of the few to effortlessly transfer their affections from David Cameron – or, more accurately, George Osborne – to Theresa May, he has been rewarded with one of the most challenging jobs in British politics. Highly ambitious, if he does well in his current job he could justify a pitch for the top one.
19. (NEW) Julian Smith
Government Chief Whip
Succeeded his friend and mentor Gavin Williamson into the top job in the whips’ office, having served as deputy for a year. Seen as genial and competent, many were surprised that a more heavyweight taskmaster wasn’t given the job. Has copped a lot of flak for the Jo Swinson pairing scandal, in which Brandon Lewis was hung out to dry, but he has won all the votes that really mattered. And as chief whip, that’s what counts.
20. (-12) Gavin Williamson
Secretary of State for Defence
One of the few Cameroons to survive regime change, Williamson’s initial appointment as chief whip caused more than a few raised eyebrows, given his comparative youth and inexperience. Last year we concluded our remarks by saying he was “said to harbour much higher ambitions.”. In November he succeeded Michael Fallon as Defence Secretary, having, it was alleged, engineered his own promotion. He’s had a difficult start to the job with a series of avoidable gaffes, but has proved to be quite popular in the ministry and among the rank and file who he makes a point of mixing with on his visits. It’s an important year ahead for him.
21. (-2) Greg Clark
Secretary of State for Business, Energy, Innovation & Skills
Greg Clark is seen as hugely competent and likeable, and commands great loyalty, but over the last year he has taken over the mantle of Remainer-in-Chief from Philip Hammond, and been very vocal in Cabinet about the risks for business of a No Deal Brexit. The Chancellor-Business Secretary axis is quite a powerful one and is being exploited by both of them. Clark was supposed to have been moved to Health in the last reshuffle, but Jeremy Hunt refused to swap jobs.
22. (+3) Lord Ashcroft
Businessman & Philanthropist
Michael Ashcroft has just published a book called White Flag, putting his firmly at the centre of the debate about the state of Britain’s defences. Still a major player in Tory financial circles, he’s come back in from the cold after falling out with David Cameron.
23. (-) Arlene Foster
First Minister of Northern Ireland
Arlene Foster has proved to be an obstinate and doughty colleague, or opponent depending on your viewpoint. Theresa May is said to be driven to distraction by her, and one wonders whether the DUP deal will be renewed without an even heavier price being extracted.
24. (+5) James Brokenshire
Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government
Another of Theresa May’s junior Home Office ministers who has prospered in government. After his health scare last year, James Brokenshire has returned to government in a crucial department. Get housing policy right and it could go a major way to winning the next election. He needs time and should stay in this job for the rest of the parliament. There’s been too much change.
25. (-1) David Gauke
Lord Chancellor & Secretary of State for Justice
From Chief Secretary, to Welfare and Pensions Secretary, to Justice Secretary, all in the space of a year. Not bad going, but it’s done David Gauke little favours. If you want a politician on TV who can be relied on not to drop the proverbial bollock, Gauke is your man, but he seems to have decided to adopt a lower profile after the mishandling of the John Worboys release that never was. This has allowed him to immerse himself in policy and we’re starting to see the results of that in terms of a welcome change in prisons policy. We expect him to rise into the top 20 next year.
26. (-9) Stephen Parkinson
Political Secretary, Number Ten Downing Street
Parkinson is a popular figure in Conservative Party circles. He left the Home Office to work for Vote Leave and has been Director of the Conservative History Group for some years. His is a crucial role in the Downing Street machine. However, he’s had a difficult year with accusations made against him over his role in the Vote Leave campaign.
27. (+8) Steve Baker
Former Brexit Minister
A devout campaigner for Brexit, Baker was the key figure in re-energising the European Research Group, and although Jacob Rees-Mogg is the public face, it’s he who’s doing the legwork. He hates doing media interviews and is happy to be the power behind the throne. Was viewed as a hard worker during his time as a Brexit minister under David Davis.
28. (-8) Chris Grayling
Secretary of State for Transport
Chris Grayling has had a difficult year and has come under heavy criticism for his handling of various rail franchise issues. Even some of his parliamentary colleagues have turned on him for failing to apparently grip the issue. However much he (rightly) protests that it’s the rail managers who have misled him or failed to brief him properly, it doesn’t wash with many people because they say the buck ultimately stops with him. He loves the portfolio and has some meaningful achievements to his name, but perception is everything and he needs to recover some ground in the next 12 months.
29. (+3) Joanna Penn
Deputy Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister
Known as JoJo, Penn is said to be the other woman in Downing Street who gets things done. A popular figure, she was with Theresa May at the Home Office and has her total trust.
30. (-) Paul Goodman
One of the few non-MPs on this list who can phone up any cabinet minister and they’ll take his call immediately. He seems to have become more radical as the years go by and isn’t afraid to offer constructive criticism where he feels it is merited. ConservativeHome will become ever more important as this parliament develops and a leadership election moves ever closer.
31. (-21) Amber Rudd
Former Home Secretary
At the Home Office Amber Rudd radiated competence until the Windrush affair did for her. It was an honourable resignation given her officials had clearly mucked up on a massive scale, both on the policy and in what they told her. But she’s far from finished. We can see her returning to office before 2019 is out, although in what capacity it’s difficult to predict.
32. (-1) Nigel Dodds
DUP Deputy Leader and MP for North Belfast
Dodds seems to be relishing his new-found position as the man in Westminster who could bring down the government. He never knew he was so popular among senior Conservatives.
33. (-27) Damian Green
Former First Secretary of State
A close friend of Theresa May from their university days, Damian Green was always tipped to return to ministerial office if she became leader, after being fired by David Cameron. He played the role of Theresa’s ‘Willie’ very well. He felt badly treated when he was forced to resign as First Secretary but has kept his nose clean since and Theresa May could well look for a way to bring him back into government at some point.
34. (+2) Fraser Nelson
Editor, The Spectator
Fraser Nelson was appointed editor at a comparatively young age, but he has more than lived up to both Andrew Neil’s and his readers’ expectations. He’s now been editor since 2009, a long time in the world of magazines. In the last 12 months, the magazine has cemented its reputation for original thought and brilliant analysis of the state of Brexit and the Conservative Party. That is in no small part to Fraser Nelson’s leadership and total support from his publisher.
35. (-9) George Osborne
Former Chancellor of the Exchequer; Editor, London Evening Standard
George Osborne has been very successful in maintaining a high media profile, and his first year as editor of the Standard has been a success. He has pitched the paper as the chief opposition to Theresa May, losing no opportunity to criticise her, often in a very personal way. If he ever wants to return to frontline politics, he will have quite a lot of bridges to build.
36. (-2) Shanker Singham
Director of International Trade & Competition Unit, Institute of Economic Affairs
An eloquent advocate of the advantages of free trade, it’s a shame that the Government hasn’t been able to lure him to work for Liam Fox. One of the small number of economists who has been a trade negotiator, he was the main author of the recent IEA paper on the way forward for Brexit. Rigorously researched, it even provoked the BBC to delete a blogpost by Newsnight‘s Christopher Cook, which was a poorly-constructed attack on Singham’s proposals.
37. (-3) Karen Bradley
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Surprisingly moved from DDCMS to Northern Ireland at the beginning of the year, Karen Bradley is one of Theresa May’s closest confidantes. Despite admitting she knew nothing about Northern Ireland politics, she’s done a good job getting on top of her brief and getting to know the major personalities, but she has been unable to bring them together to reform the Executive. She recently gave an ill-judged interview when she admitted not even knowing that the two communities tended to vote along sectarian lines in elections. One thing not to know, another thing entirely to admit it.
38. (+7) Mark Littlewood
Director General, Institute of Economic Affairs
Littlewood has had a successful period in charge of one of the oldest think tanks in the country. A pugnacious debater, he is one of the best advocates of free market economics. He’s also made some very astute recent staff appointments in recruiting Shanker Singham and promoting Kate Andrews.
39. (+5) Baroness Evans
Leader of the House of Lords
Baroness who? That was the response from most people when it was announced she had replaced the popular Baroness Stowell as Leader of the House of Lords. Natalie Evans is a longterm friend of Theresa May from her Women2Win days. She’s started to come out of a self-imposed media hibernation and has been quite an effective performer.
40. (NEW) Esther McVey
Secretary of State for Work & Pensions
Having lost her seat in 2015, Esther McVey has made a strong comeback in Parliament, having been promoted from Deputy Chief Whip to the Cabinet after only a few months. She’s a lightning rod for criticism from welfare campaigners given her controversial period as a junior minister in the DWP before the 2015 election. A true Eurosceptic, she has been tipped to resign if Theresa May goes too far in watering down Brexit. So far she’s resisted the temptation.
41. (+9) Robert Halfon
Chairman, Education Select Committee
One of the most popular members of the parliamentary Party, many heads were scratched when Halfon was summarily sacked as education minister in June 2017. No one could understand why. We still can’t. However, he has bounced back very quickly and bagged the chairmanship of a very important select committee. He promises to be a very painful thorn in the Government’s side. A redoubtable parliamentary campaigner.
42. (+32) Tom Tugendhat
Chairman, Foreign Affairs Select Committee
Charming, urbane and with a slight air of political naiveté, Tom Tugendhat ran for the chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs select committee in June 2017 with the aim of putting a marker down. He didn’t expect to win. He’s recently said he thinks the next Party leader should come from a new generation. If he has ambitions in that direction (when we say ‘if’, we know he does) then he needs to get into government pretty damn quick. MPs won’t vote for a leader with no experience.
43. (+13) Lord Finkelstein
Columnist, The Times
Danny Finkelstein rises this year because he has not only written some brilliant columns, but we understand he is also advising Theresa May privately, including preparing her for Prime Minister’s Questions. He’s also been helping David Cameron with his memoirs. We’d like to see him join the Government before long. He’s surely a future Leader of the Lords, as we said last year.
44. (-2) Daniel Hannan
MEP for South East England
It was a sign of the ridiculous attitudes prevailing in CCHQ that Hannan didn’t get a safe seat in the 2017 election. He was effectively blackballed from applying for his home seat of Aldershot by the then party chairman Patrick McLoughlin, according to informed sources. He is one of the most articulate advocates of Britain in a post-Brexit world and he ought to be listened to. If he doesn’t get a seat next time he should be made a peer and brought into government as a junior trade minister.
45. (-5) Andrea Leadsom
Leader of the House of Commons
Andrea Leadsom may have dropped down this list a little, but we repeat what we said last year: she is not to be underestimated. Like Esther McVey, she is one of the cabinet ministers rumoured to have come to the end of their tether on the Chequers Accord, but many were surprised she didn’t quit with David Davis. She’s proved a very capable Leader of the House and is said to work well with the Parliamentary authorities and Opposition, even if she has become exasperated with the Speaker.
46. (+3) Christian May
Editor, City AM
A former lobbyist at the Institute of Directors, Christian May was a surprise choice to take over the editorship of City AM from Allister Heath, but boy oh boy was it an inspired one. He has lifted its profile, increased its turnover and distribution. And he’s making a name for himself as a pundit. One to watch.
47. (-) Paul Staines
Managing Editor, Guido Fawkes blog
The site everyone in politics loves to read, unless they feature on it. Still as incisive and controversial as ever, despite the loss of its two main journalists a few months ago. Thirteen years old now, Guido Fawkes remains the one site that everyone involved in politics reads every day. If that isn’t a sign of influence, we don’t know what is.
48. (-2) Priti Patel
Former Secretary of State for International Development
A total needless resignation, what on earth was she thinking of? Such a shame because Priti Patel had been doing some sterling work at DfiD, finally reigning in some its more questionable spending. We doubt whether Theresa May has any intention of giving her a second chance, so her best bet is to launch some eye-catching campaigns from the backbenches. She ought to be one of the people going up and down the country selling the benefits of Brexit, but she’s been surprisingly quiet on that front.
49. (NEW) Claire Perry
Minister of State for Energy
Claire Perry is certainly a minister who could be described as Marmite. You wither love her or hate her. A sometimes brilliant media performer, she has toned it down a little of late and also suppressed her Remainer views to row in behind government policy. She attends the cabinet, and we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see her running her own department by the time this list comes around again in 2019.
50. (+28) James Cleverly
Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party
In the week before this list was compiled last year James Cleverly admitted he’d love to be Prime Minister. This year he’s incurred the current incumbent’s wrath by asking her in an interview for the House Magazine what influence her husband has on her decision-making. Brave. Does a job as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for pensions beckon? Many were disappointed he didn’t go for the London mayoral nomination. He now needs to be able to point to a solid record achievement at CCHQ is he is to, in the words of M People, keep moving on up.
51. (-8) Anna Soubry
MP for Broxtowe
Even more of a Remainer than Ken Clarke, ‘Soubers’ has been a powerful voice in the Brexit debate. She moves down a little in this list for seeming to almost encourage the formation of a Centre Party, although it’s difficult to imagine her leaving her ‘tribe’.
52. (NEW) Damian Hinds
Secretary of State for Education
A rather unknown quantity, although not quite in the Jeremy Wright league, Damian Hinds has had a slightly anonymous start to his cabinet career. Expect his profile to rise during the year given he holds one of the most important jobs in government.
53. (+5) William Hague
Former Foreign Secretary & Party Leader
Some of us thought William Hague was a Eurosceptic but his interventions in the EU eeferendum campaign proved what many of us suspected – that he went native during his five years as Foreign Secretary. However, his weekly Telegraph column has injected some wise words into the divisive Brexit debate.
54. (+30) Matthew Parris
Columnist, The Times & Spectator
For many he is the pre-eminent columnist of his generation. He can write entertainingly about anything and never bores, mainly because of his endearing unpredictability. Probably the most-read columnist among Tory MPs. He has suffered from an obsession with Brexit but has tempered that in recent months and returned to being the entertaining and thought-provoking writer we know him to be.
55. (+1) Douglas Murray
Author & Associate Director, Henry Jackson Society
A real hate figure for the left, Murray’s latest book, The Strange Death of Europe, has been both a bestseller and an important contribution to the debate on immigration, Islam and Europe. It confronts some important questions which many people do their best to avoid discussing.
56. (+2) James Marshall
Director, Number Ten Policy Unit
A former teacher, Marshall was special advisor to three chief whips and Lord Strathclyde when he was leader of the House of Lords. Brought back by Gavin Barwell, Marshall is not particularly a policy wonk, which is odd, given his role. The FT quoted a leading Conservative as saying: “He’s running the policy unit like a whipping operation”.
57. (+6) Tracey Crouch
Minister for Sport
If ever there was a round peg in a round hole as a minister, it’s Tracey Crouch. A qualified football coach, she made a blinding start in her new job and has ruffled all sorts of feathers in various sports. She has a refreshing interview style and has done a lot to advance the cause of women in sport. She should have been promoted to Minister of State in the last reshuffle. Let’s hope she stays in the job but gets her just desserts.
58. (NEW) Matthew d’Ancona
Columnist for The Guardian & Evening Standard
Had our rules been different in previous years, Matthew d’Ancona would have been in it every year. He writes so silkily it engenders jealousy among other writers. Very plugged into Tory politics, he’s one of the three or four columnists everyone on the right ought to read religiously.
59. (NEW) James Forsyth
Political Editor, The Spectator
James Forsyth is possibly the best-connected Conservative-minded journalist in Westminster, and his weekly Spectator columns rarely disappoint. He’s now got a weekly column on The Sun, too. His slightly laconic demeanour belies an incredibly sharp brain. A dream of a writer.
60. (+6) Charles Moore
Columnist, The Spectator
Currently writing the final volume of his biography of Margaret Thatcher, Moore remains an absolute must read in the Spectator and Telegraph. He brings a unique sense of history to his writing.
61. (-24) Nicky Morgan
Chair, Treasury Select Committee
Theresa May and Nicky Morgan do not get on. Never have. So Morgan’s sacking came as little surprise to her or others in June 2017. She quickly became the most outspoken critics of the Prime Minister on the Tory benches. However, she’s been careful not to overegg the criticism and of late has been positively loyal. Almost. She has even incurred the agreement of Brexiteers by speaking out against another referendum.
62. (-1) Sheridan Westlake
Special Advisor, No 10 Downing Street
Having spent many years working in the CRD and then for Eric Pickles, Sheridan Westlake took on a new enforcement role in Downing Street under David Cameron. He is one of the few Cameron Downing Street appointments to be kept on by Theresa May. Basically in charge of delivery and avoiding clusterf**ks.
63. (+6) Iain Duncan Smith
Former Leader of the Conservative Party
Duncan Smith has become one of the main spokespeople for Brexit and is rarely off the airwaves. He continues his work with the Centre for Social Justice, but is also facing a strong Labour challenge in his Chingford constituency.
64. (+19) Sir Mick Davis
Chief Executive and Co-Treasurer of the Conservative Party
The appointment of Sir Mick was treated with some scepticism but he has proved himself, hence his rise in this year’s list. He’s won the confidence of both Theresa May and Brandon Lewis and has vastly improved the party’s financial position, even if he’s had to spend a huge amount of time placating some unhappy donors.
65. (-26) Nick Timothy
Former Chief of Staff to Theresa May, Telegraph and Sun columnist
Nick Timothy writes a weekly column in the Telegraph, which is often quite punchy with good advice for the Prime Minister and the Government. Yet Conservative MPs still blame him for the loss of the Tory majority in June 2017. He’s kept a very low profile and does no media interviews. It’s still unclear if he is still in touch regularly with the Prime Minister.
66. (-6) Stuart Polak
Director, Conservative Friends of Israel
One of the shrewdest single issue pressure group lobbyists around, Polak joined the Conservative benches in the House of Lords in 2015. His influence on Conservative policy towards the Middle East is unlikely to decline.
67. (+14) Dean Godson
Director, Policy Exchange
Policy Exchange is still as prolific as it ever was, but last year we were unsure if it infiltrated Number Ten in the same way it did during the Cameron years. The recruitment of Will Heaven from the Telegraph and former Australian High Commissioner Alexander Downer have been particularly shrewd and we believe Policy Exchange’s influence is now on the increase under the leadership of Dean Godson.
68. (NEW) Isabel Hardman
Deputy Political Editor, The Spectator
One of the brightest stars in the firmament of political journalism, Isabel Hardman has recently published a new book on why we get the politicians we deserve.
69. (NEW) Simon Heffer
Historian and Sunday Telegraph columnist
Simon Heffer has written some brilliant history books in recent years and is perhaps better known for that than his weekly column in the Sunday Telegraph. He is likely to have a higher profile over the next 12 months given his rabid antipathy to Boris Johnson.
70. (NEW) Andrew Pierce
Associate Editor, Daily Mail & LBC Presenter
Tory Boy Pierce knows everybody in Tory circles and isn’t afraid to write critical things about them. His waspish sense of humour often means no one bears a grudge. Every newspaper needs an Andrew Pierce but only one has got one.
71. (NEW) Sir John Major
Former Prime Minister
Sir John Major re-enters this list after a few years’ absence mainly because of his influence on the Brexit debate. He doesn’t speak out very often, but when he does, people listen.
72. (NEW) Peter Oborne
Columnist, Daily Mail
Always interesting, always controversial, never predictable. Just what you want in an opinionated columnist. And he is one columnist that every Tory MP will read and take note of.
73. (+13) Mark Wallace
Executive Editor, ConservativeHome
Wallace brings a bright, pugnacious approach to ConservativeHome and rarely sits on the fence in his writings. He often has some uncomfortable messages for the Conservative Party, not least since the general election campaign failure. He’s also developing a higher media profile and is a good performer.
74. (-12) Sarah Wollaston
Chair of the Health Select Committee
The maverick’s maverick. Many of her fellow MPs don’t regard her as a team player. However, to others she is the exemplification of what a decent MP should be – open minded, willing to speak out against her own party if need be, diligent and honest. The public like and respect her, even if Brexiteers do not. They have never forgiven her for ratting on the Leave campaign in the middle of the referendum.
75. (+7) Andy Street
Mayor of the West Midlands
Andy Street won by the narrowest of margins in the West Midlands Mayoral election, but the main thing was he won, against all the odds. We think he has done well in his first year even though he doesn’t really have many powers.
76. (-) David Cameron
Former Prime Minister
David Cameron remains on the list but we’re unlikely to hear anything from him until his book is published in the autumn of next year. But having called the referendum and then resigned the day after it, the country continues to deal with that legacy.
77. (+23) Dia Chakravarty
Brexit Editor, Daily Telegraph
A regular of the BBC’s Question Time, Dia Chakravarty left the TaxPayers’ Alliance to join the Telegraph. Working with Brexit Commissioning Editor Asa Bennett she’s making the Telegraph’s Brexit coverage unmissable.
78. (+18) Kemi Badenoch
MP for Saffron Walden, Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party
Last year we included Kemi Badenoch as a bit of talent spotting. This year we think she deserves an advance due to her impact on both the Party and in the media. She’s overseen a revamping of the candidates list and is highly thought of by Number Ten. She picks and chooses her media exposure and always gives a memorable interview whether in print or broadcast.
79. (RE-ENTRY) Liz Truss
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Liz Truss dropped out of the list last year after her demotion to ‘attending cabinet’ from being a full member. She has, however, had quite an active year without doing anything particularly memorable apart from ramping up her Twitter and Instagram activity. A sure sign of an ambitious politician who thinks their talents haven’t quite been recognised. Our tip is for her to form an alliance with another leadership contender…
80. (NEW) James Delingpole
Columnist, The Spectator
A right-wing pundit that the Left love to hate. He annoys everyone, especially environmentalists, and long may he continue to do so. His Spectator columns are never predictable but they’re always thought-provoking.
81. (+14) Jonathan Isaby
Isaby is one of the Right’s most popular and engaging figures. His latest incarnation is as the editor of BrexitCentral, a site which even devout Remainers like James McGrory say is an indispensable part of their morning reading. It’s not just a Brexit cheerleader, its articles are often far more informative and educational than those found in the mainstream press. Over the last year Isaby’s media profile has increased markedly.
82. (-10) Tim Montgomerie
We believe this is the last year that Tim Montgomerie will take a tumble in this list. We suspect that his recent resignation as editor of Unherd will see him return as one of the country’s most compelling Conservative commentators. A close ally of Sajid Javid (they were at university together) don’t be surprised to see him play a leading role in a future Javid leadership campaign.
83. (-8) Katie Perrior
Former Director of Communications, Number 10 Downing Street
Following her departure from Number Ten, Katie Perrior has returned as chairman of inHouse PR and is pursuing a career in political punditry and has a regular column in The Times. She is also a co-presenter of a morning radio show.
84. (+3) Allister Heath
Editor, Sunday Telegraph
The Sunday Telegraph has become readable again under Allister Heath’s editorship. He’s made some good hires but still has some way to go if he’s to steal readers from his competitors.
85. (RE-ENTRY) Nicholas Boles
Conservative MP for Grantham & Stamford
Nicholas Boles has spent two years off the list but he returns due to his original thinking, writing and ability to push new ideas. You’d expect it as a former think-tank director, but his papers on new directions for the Conservative Party under the Square Deal banner, and his proposals for Brexit, lead us to think that he remains one of the Party’s most original thinkers.
86. (NEW) Camilla Tominey
Associate Editor, Daily Telegraph
Camilla Tominey has effortlessly made the transition from royal correspondent to the world of politics. Since she’s joined the Telegraph she has increased her punditry and ruthlessly lays into the Labour Party. We think she’d make a great MP.
87. (NEW) Iain Martin
Editor, Reaction Life
Iain Martin has been a leading Conservative-minded columnist and commentator for many years. He has now created a fascinating website which carries political, social and cultural commentary. It’s unashamedly at the high end and the quality has tempted thousands of people to sign up and pay for the content.
88. (+11) Kate Andrews
Associate Director, Institute of Economic Affairs
One of the bright new generations of right of centre thinkers, Andrews has got a high media profile and deservedly so. Dry as dust on economics, she’s rather more liberal on social and foreign policy issues. An interesting mix. Her profile has shot up in the last 12 months.
89. (NEW) Andrew Sharpe
President, National Convention of the Conservative Party
A popular leader of the Conservative Party’s voluntary party, he has proved himself a good link man with the political side of the operation and Number Ten. Theresa May is said to get on with him and values his advice.
90. (NEW) Tim Stanley
Columnist, Daily Telegraph
One of the most readable political columns in the media, Tim Stanley is always good at bringing historical perspectives to his writing on contemporary events. He seems to eschew most broadcast media apart from Question Time, which is a pity because he is a unique younger Conservative voice.
91. (NEW) Seema Kennedy
PPS to the Prime Minister
Relatively unknown, she has reportedly made a good start in acting as the Prime Minister’s eyes and ears among the Conservative Parliamentary Party.
92. (NEW) Robert Colvile
Director, Centre for Policy Studies
The CPS ought to be one of the leading influences on Conservative policy and thinking, and under Robert Colvile’s leadership it is getting back to where it should be.
93. (NEW) Zoe Thorogood
Chief of Staff to the Conservative Party Chairman
Having worked as chief of staff to Eric Pickles, Zoe Thorogood has returned to working for Pickles’ protégé, Brandon Lewis at CCHQ. Tougher than she looks, she is a dispenser of wise advice and is good at extinguishing fires before they properly catch light.
94. (-3) Geoff Norcott
Said to be the country’s only right-wing comedian. He’s made appearances on Question Time and is actually very funny. In his act he’s a very reasonable Conservative rather than a headbanger and we suspect his profile will only continue to grow.
95. (NEW) Juliet Samuel
Columnist, Daily Telegraph
One of a growing band of young female Conservative minded journalists, Juliet Samuel cut her teeth on Guido Fawkes and then at City AM. She has done more than anyone else to brighten up the Telegraph’s comment pages.
96. (NEW) Baroness Anne Jenkin
With CCHQ launching a new drive to recruit women candidates, Women2Win’s role will be increasingly important. Anne Jenkin has been a remarkable influence on women candidates down the years and it’s great to see her playing an important role in the House of Lords.
97. (NEW) Laura Perrins
Editor, The Conservative Woman
Despite some of her more socially conservative views, the panel felt that Laura Perrins should be recognised for her website which never fails to be controversial. Whenever she’s on the media her outspokenness causes many eyes to roll, but she certainly represents a strand of moern conservative thought, albeit it a small one.
98. (NEW) George Freeman
Chairman, Conservative Policy Forum
Having called for the Prime Minister to hand over to a new generation, we think it safe to say that George Freeman’s time as chair of the Conservative Policy Forum may be drawing to a close. His Big Tent ideas festival seemed to be full of non-Conservatives, but maybe that was the point. He has carved out a role as a new Conservative thinker, and seems to be much admired by a certain type of BBC journalist.
99. (NEW) Chloe Westley
Campaign Manager, Taxpayers’ Alliance
A rising star of the right, Chloe Westley has become a bit of a media hit after an appearance on Question Time. An eloquent exponent of low taxes and low public spending she is also one of the few people who can portray Brexit in a uniquely positive light.
100. (NEW) Andrea Jenkyns
Conservative MP for Morley and Outwood
Having told the media she wants the Prime Minister to go, she automatically became a media celebrity, and she is unrepentant in her criticism of Chequers. However, she has to be careful not to go too far, because that way lies the opposite of influence.