The Mail on Sunday majors on the omission of George Osborne and Chris Grayling from the Tories’ five faces plan. Osborne’s omission is not as surprising as it seems at first glance. Years ago, I was told that the plan was for Osborne to stay in London running the campaign while Cameron and his colleagues went round the country pushing the Tory message. I have no doubt that Labour, and some of his internal critics, will rag Osborne for his absence from the campaign trail, though.
Grayling’s absence is more telling. When Grayling was moved to the Home Affairs brief in January of last year he was regarded as the most effective Tory attack dog. Andy Coulson viewed his move as a key part of this ‘pub-ready’ reshuffle. But Grayling has not set the world alight in his new role. Alan Johnson has proved very effective at shutting the brief down as a political issue and there is a general feeling in Tory circles that the party has never fully recovered from Davis’s decision to quit over Labour’s policy on 42 days. But there is no obvious alternative Home Secretary to Grayling given that Cameron has resolved not to bring back Davis.
But what I’m struck by is not only Osborne and Grayling’s absence but that of Eric Pickles. Pickles is party chairman, normally an important role and especially so in an election year—think Fox in 2005, Patten in 1992, Tebbit in 1987, Parkinson in 1983, but he has been, as Francis Elliott reported recently, relegated to a role “geeing up the troops”.