New Forest East



ConservativeHome – 29 December 2009


Rather than single out one individual from the frontbench for this award, I am going to take this opportunity to pay tribute to those once called The Indispensables by Tim; in other words, those shadow frontbenchers outside the shadow cabinet who are not necessarily household names, but who have been beavering away in their posts for the entire parliament, if not longer, mastering the detail of their brief and gaining the respect of those working in their field of expertise. It would be impossible to name all those from across both Houses who deserve recognition here, so I have picked out six MPs who typify the hard-working Shadow Ministers of State who fit this category:

Nick Gibb - Shadow Schools Minister since 2005;

Gerald Howarth - Shadow Defence Minister with responsibility for the RAF since 2002;

Julian Lewis - Shadow Defence Minister with responsibility for the Royal Navy since 2002;

Tim Loughton - Shadow Minister for Children since 2003;

Stephen O'Brien - Shadow Health Minister since 2005;

James Paice - Shadow Minister for Agriculture since 2004 (a post he also held under William Hague).

It must be hoped that their work in opposition will be rewarded with appropriate jobs in government.


Liam Fox has had a good year - establishing himself as the Defence Secretary-in-waiting and the most important right-winger in David Cameron's team.

Sayeeda Warsi has also finished the year well. Her Question Time performance and her reaction to being "egged" by Muslim extremists have made her one of the party's best communicators.

On balance, however, my choice for frontbencher of 2009 is Philip Hammond.

The Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury has certainly won Tory members' confidence - steadily climbing the performance league table to the number five slot.  His assured media performances have been central to this climb but behind-the-scenes, away from the camera this slightly funereal character is well regarded by colleagues and a little feared. To instill a little fear in frontbench colleagues is a good quality in a Chief Secretary. Every frontbencher wants to spend money and it is the Chief Secretary's job to protect the interests of the Treasury (and the taxpayer). Hammond is set to be a powerful Deputy if George Osborne becomes Chancellor. George Osborne is always going to be distracted by interesting political projects and that will increase the influence of his second-in-command.