After we’ve published today’s newslinks and features, we will turn to posting the Sunday political show videos. What’s said on Sophy Ridge on Sunday or The Andrew Marr Show can help shape the start of the Westminster week.
It is surprising that only one female Cabinet Minister has been put up on either since the start of lockdown, according to today’s Sunday Times. Though less so in some cases than it seems.
For example, the Government is unlikely to put up Natalie Evans, the Leader of the House of Lords (though she would cope at least as well as some other Cabinet members who sit in the Commons, regardless of sex).
The shows will also have a bias towards topics that are making the headlines. This explains why Dominic Raab, for example, has made 14 appearances, and Liz Truss, who presently tops our Cabinet League Table, has made none.
The Foreign Office gets dragged into home affairs all the time: consider last week’s Commons drama on China and genocide. And Raab is First Secretary of State – leading the Government, in effect, during Boris Johnson’s Covid-19 illness last year.
Meanwhile, the Department of International Trade is the most remote from the domestic political action, since it is concentrated on trade negotiations, deals and promotion abroad.
In one sense, this is a plus for Truss, since she has been able to get on with triumphantly renegotiating over 60 trade deals abroad without the distraction of dramas at home.
In another, it keeps her at a bit of a distance from the domestic action, regardless of her vigorous recent speech on equalities, and her work as Minister responsible for the portfolio.
Furthermore, good news is bad news for the broadcasters, and indeed for all journalists, since the public has long shown less of an appetite for reading the latter than the former. Or that’s the legend, anyway.
Ridge and Marr will have no appetite for hearing Truss reel off a list of countries with which, in defiance of some estimates, she succeeded in finalising trade deals before we had reached one with the EU.
Priti Patel is an unnourishing interviewee, but knows a trap question when she sees one, and when in doubt safely deploys the line to take. So is curious that this female ethnic minority holder of a great office of state has only been let loose twice.
Which brings us to two final and different cases. Amanda Milling has had the most difficult year of any Party Chairman in recent history, because of the cancellation of last year’s local elections, which deprived her of work, a platform and almost of her job.
But until recently the Party Chairman was a busy media talking head – a public face for the Conservatives who, in tackling Today or Peston, would thereby also take some of interviewing weight from departmental ministers’ shoulders.
This leaves Therese Coffey – whose absence from Downing Street’s press conferences we have noted before. The bias against putting her up in public is inexplicable.
Her department has taken the strain of Covid, bearing the new strain on Universal Credit. Imagine the turmoil if the system had collapsed. Instead, Coffey has overseen a tripling in the number of people on the payment from two million to six million.
As for the fledgling campaign by Marcus Rashford to keep the uplift, is there a Cabinet member with more knowledge of the credit than Coffey, and so better placed to argue the toss in public?
(She wants to keep the uplift going for a while, Rish Sunak doesn’t, and you can bet on Boris Johnson settling on a compromise solution during the weeks ahead.)
There is no necessary connection between a Minister who speaks eloquently and one who governs effectively, but the Government needs senior Ministers it can put out in public who can go on the front foot.
At the moment, our take is that this list is restricted to Sunak, Raab, Michael Gove, Matt Hancock, the Prime Minister himself, and a politician who, since his depature and comeback, has learned to “speak human” on TV: Grant Shapps.
The Party Chairman needs to be able to pitch in, which is one of the reasons why CCHQ will need a shake-up at the top come the reshuffle, presumably later this year.
Footnote: there’s something a bit odd about the Sunday Times‘ list as we go to press. It’s missing Ben Wallace, Gavin Williamson, Simon Hart and Allister Jack.
We concede that the latter two are special cases, being territorial Ministers. But Brandon Lewis is on the list nonetheless. If Wallace and Williamson have made no appearances at all, the suggestion of a bias against women Ministers is weakened, if not collapsed.