ConservativeHome’s monthly Cabinet League Table gets a mention in the Times this morning. It does so in the context of who might replace Damian Green as First Secretary of State if he resigns in the wake of the current Cabinet Office enquiry. The paper mentions Michael Gove, who topped the table last month, as a possible replacement. It also names Amber Rudd.
There are at least two snags with these suggestions. First, neither the Home Secretary nor the Environment Secretary could both run their departments, sit on 15 Cabinet committees or sub-committees, chair five of them – and preside over six implementation task forces. Not if they want to be effective departmental ministers, at least.
Second, Green is Theresa May’s man (or at least is seen as such) and, even before the current investigation, was not seen as a possible successor as Prime Minister. This is not exactly the case with either Gove or Rudd. Giving either such a leg up would do nothing to calm the present jittery atmosphere near the top of the Government.
And if the First Secretary of State were not effectively to deputise for May by running large chunks of its programme, what would be the point of making the appointment?
Jeremy Hunt is at risk of becoming this site’s recommendation for every major vacancy, since we’ve already suggested that the ex-businessman would bring purpose to CCHQ as Party Chairman. But he undoubtedly has the ability to fill Green’s present shoes if necessary. David Lidington would be an able and loyalist alternative, though he has only recently got his feet under the Justice desk.
Moving either, however, would require a proper reshuffle. Attention is already turning to one. Bells toll in the papers this morning for Philip Hammond: it is claimed that Downing Street is so alarmed at his Budget preparations that it has taken some over. Our candidate for a replacement at the Treasury is Gove.
It is important to stress that Green is still in place, that the principle of innocence until or unless proved otherwise applies (as it always should), and that May presumably doesn’t want an immediate post-Budget shuffle in any event. But it would be odd were Number Ten not to be planning ahead, or trying to, and odder still were newspapers not to probe and comment.