The Government list omits Parliamentary Private Secretaries: it begins with the Prime Minister, runs through the Ministerial ranks and ends with the Lords whips. But PPSs are no less obliged to vote with the Government than is Theresa May herself. Though they are not remunerated by the taxpayer, they are none the less part of the payroll vote – the first rung on the ladder of office. After the Coalition took office, this fact was recognised – and the full list was published. Now you have to go to this site or Guido Fawkes or Powerbase to snuffle it out.
Perish the thought that either Downing Street would rather you didn’t know which Tory MPs are under a special obligation to support the Government and which aren’t. (ConservativeHome once worked out that if you lump in the trade envoys and Party vice-chairmen, the payroll consisted of almost half the Parliamentary Party.) The next logical step would be not to publish a list of Ministers at all, so that voters have to work the details out for themselves. Cynics below the line on this site will doubtless add that in some cases this would make little difference.
At any rate, the first appointments are beginning to emerge, and there seems to be a change. When we analysed the previous Government’s list, Mark Wallace noted that they were “mostly remainers”. But the new one contains some of the leading leavers from the 2015 intake. These include Suella Fernandes, who recently replaced Steve Baker as Chairman of the European Research Group, and Michael Tomlinson, the new Deputy Chairman. She is off to the Treasury; he to DfiD. The Brexiteer discipline kept by Baker via a WhatsApp group is becoming the stuff of lobby legend.
The news has a twist. The ERG officers are to stay in post: they will lead a group that has been a backbench force from within the Ministerial ranks. There are two ways of looking at this development. First, that Brexiteers are taking over the Government. Second, that the Government – or more specifically the Whips – are taking over the Brexiteers, since it is hard to believe that the latter will have the same freedom of action within the constraints of government. We leave it to our readers to make a judgement while offering congratulations to all the new appointees, whichever side they campaigned for in last year’s referendum.