Isabel Hardman

Theresa May needs to promote new ideas, not just new names

Theresa May needs to promote new ideas, not just new names
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Labyrinths: Emma Jung, Her Marriage to Carl and the Early Years of Psychoanalysis

Catrine Clay

William Collins, pp. 406, £

Theresa May is threatening a reshuffle - and would be wise to threaten it for as long as possible as the only thing more problematic than naughty ministers you need to move is angry ex-ministers who didn’t want to be moved. Katy looks at who the Prime Minister could move in this post here, and points to a desire for new talent in the government.

Promoting the next generation would achieve two things. Firstly it would energise a rather grey government (impressive, given the grey government is opposed by a party led by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell). Secondly, it would give younger, newer MPs who haven’t had their hands dipped in the grey paint of the current administration a chance to bolster their experience and credentials in time for a leadership contest that wasn’t just about those already at the top of the party vying for a top job. At the very least, the prospect of whippersnappers at the heels of the current guard might make some of them buck their ideas up: after all, Conservatives fervently believe that competition improves standards.

But promoting new talent isn’t enough. The reason the Tory party appears grey is that it hasn’t got any ideas, and it’s not yet clear whether the shiny new generation has worked out any decent big ideas, either. ‘Rising stars’ are often written up as such for their ability to charm journalists over lunch or their relationships with influential senior members of the government, who kindly tip off columnists that their former adviser or old university friend is ‘one to watch’. Whether or not those ‘rising stars’ are watched much is another matter. Some MPs cited by Number 10 sources as ‘good speakers in the Commons’ are in fact loyal to the point of tedium, appearing to have left all their original thoughts behind in the cloakroom at their selection meeting to become a parliamentary candidate.

Some MPs have recognised that all the energy and ideas seem to be coming from Labour. George Freeman, for instance, set up his Tory Glastonbury to try to encourage a similar excitement in his own party. As I wrote during the conference, it’s not clear whether the party has the energy to start regenerating itself and taking on board new ideas while it is in government, but it desperately needs them - and it is unlikely to get them from Theresa May, whose Cabinet are well aware is easily malleable on policy. If she is to promote a new generation, she should encourage MPs who think deeply about how the Conservatives can solve the big problems of the day, not just those who are good talkers.

Written byIsabel Hardman

Isabel Hardman is assistant editor of The Spectator. She also presents Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is author of Why We Get The Wrong Politicians.

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