One of the most important – yet relatively unnoticed – players in Team Cameron is Andrew Mackay, the Bracknell MP who revels in the title "senior parliamentary and political adviser to David Cameron".
His only appearance in the spotlight in this capacity came in December when he dashed (along with a cameraman) to Damian Green’s office when it was being searched by the police. You can see the footage here.
Mr Mackay has now spoken for the first time about his role working for the Tory leader in an interview with his local paper, the Bracknell News (although the interview itself does not appear on the paper’s website). I am grateful, therefore, to Sky News’s Jon Craig (who I seem to recall lives in that vicinity) who has written up what Mr Mackay says on the Sky News blog.
Here’s what Mr Mackay says:
“He [David Cameron] wanted me on board because he has a lot of bright, young advisers
and ministers, but I have been around for a few years and done various
jobs and I can be his eyes and ears, or as he puts it to me, I am his
mine sweeper. In other words, I pick the mines out of the water before
they explode, which sometimes I succeed in doing. It’s been one of the
most exciting jobs I have done in Parliament.
“It’s a really, really interesting job and it puts me at the heart of the party and decision making. I’m with David all the time. I’m at the morning meetings when William Hague, George Osborne, myself and others decide the strategy for the day.
"It’s very exciting to have a bright, young, new leader who is so obviously full of enthusiasm and is a catalyst for change. He has already changed and modernised the Conservative Party and, like Obama in America, I believe he has the capacity to change this country and be our next Prime Minister."
Andrew Mackay first entered Parliament aged 27 at the Stechford by-election in 1977 when Roy Jenkins vacated the seat, but was defeated in 1979 – only to return in 1983 for the safe Tory area of Berkshire he now represents. As such, he has considerable experience of parliamentary life, with his time as Deputy Chief Whip in John Major’s Government being especially valuable.
It is widely thought that he hankers after the job of Chief Whip in a Cameron Government, although I imagine the current Chief, Patrick McLoughlin – widely respected as a firm but fair holder of the post – would probably dissent from that suggestion.
Update: In this pre-reshuffle post, Tim cites a fascinating piece by Fraser Nelson in the Spectator, which expands on the role of Mackay as a "Rasputin figure".