• The Chop

    The Moorlander
    29 July 2019

    Well last week I was for the chop. Sadly, I’m not referring to a preference for the meat on the menu. This was a Prime Ministerial chop. After 5 years as a minister in government, Boris Johnson, the afternoon of his appointment as Prime Minister, called me into his office to thank me for my service and to say that he had not managed to find a place for me around the Cabinet table. When I got the call to meet him at his Commons office I knew it was to be asked to step down. If I was to stay in Cabinet then I would have been invited to Number 10. It was then back to my office as Leader of the House of Commons to say goodbye to my officials. I had brought in a bottle and we raised our glasses to the times we had shared together. My wife was with me which felt good. I loved being in government. My first appointment was under David Cameron who sent me to the Whips’ Office. I started as its most junior member but through time moved up the ranks ending up as the Pairing Whip after the 2015 election when, with a small majority I had the unenviable task of deciding which of my parliamentary colleagues could be released from votes to do other things. There was little slack to share and it was often difficult handling people who wanted to attend offsite meetings or important social occasions and having to say ‘no’. My most memorable refusal was to Theresa May when she was Home Secretary, regarding the premiere screening of a new James Bond movie. Later when sitting next to her at dinner at Number 10 when she was Prime Minister, I said, ‘I don’t know how you ever forgave me for that.’ She looked at me rather archly and replied simply, ‘I didn’t’. Still it did me no harm as she then promoted me to Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General. I found myself at the Treasury with a massive office overlooking Big Ben and personal responsibility for UK taxation. It was a big job and highly technical. I took through a lot of legislation – including 3 Finance Acts and an act allowing us to run our customs border effectively on leaving the EU. I was also responsible for oversight of HMRC – an organisation of around 70,000 people. Then, a little over 2 months ago I became the last member to be appointed by Theresa May to attend her cabinet – as Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council. The latter position saw me presiding over Privy Council meetings and having a couple of very special private audiences with the Queen. The former meant overseeing our legislative programme and answering questions at the despatch box on a Thursday. I loved my time in government. I look back on it with pride – but it went so quick.

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