There was only one true mystery after David Cameron’s pitch-perfect reshuffle last week.
Where was Margot James?
I realise the risk in publishing a ‘please promote my mate’ blog about any MP, not least to the MP themselves, but that is not what I am doing here. Firstly, I know and like just about every Tory MP in the 2010 intake, and I understand there isn’t room in government for all of them, especially when LibDem obstructionists have a third of government seats (notice all those female and BME LibDem ministers by the way? Oh. Me neither). Secondly. Margot James had absolutely nothing to do with this blog and would never have approved of my writing it. And I know those that feed back to the PM will understand that.
Now that my interest has been properly declared, it is worth saying that the entire political lobby in the UK agrees with me on the merit of Stourbridge’s finest. “What, pray, has Margot James done wrong?” tweeted Tim Shipman of the Times, formerly the Mail, a grande dame of Fleet Street himself, being then retweeted by Jane Merrick, Political Editor of the Independent on Sunday. Prior to the reshuffle, Margot James was being tipped everywhere from the Guardian to the Belfast Telegraph – her name was on nearly every list.
And this is because, inexplicably, Margot James has not been promoted before. Every Parliament-watcher was expecting her elevation long before now. She is a hard worker, above average in both speaking and voting. She is loyal: “Hardly ever rebels against their party”. She is extremely nice, and has no enemies that I know of on either side of the house. She is well-regarded locally, and her local paper were none too pleased to find their favorite daughter overlooked yet again.
James is that rare breed, a person who has truly succeeded before entering politics. One of Britain’s most successful female entrepreneurs, she worked as a corporate leader in PR, winning “communicator of the year” in 1997 and selling the company she founded for millions not long after that. She resigned from the Tory party after Maggie was ousted, but rejoined, and fought the safe Labour seat of St. Pancras before taking Stourbridge from Labour in the last election. Her service to the Conservative party is not four solid Parliamentary years, it is in fact a lifetime of work.
And James, who had a life and a business before getting elected, is not as young as she looks. She is 56 with a lifetime of achievement few MPs can ever hope to match. I say this with hesitation, but somebody has to, so it may as well be me; not promoting Margot James in this Parliament is more than a mistake, it is an insult.
The PM has made Nicky Morgan Education Secretary, but also Minister for Women. Because Nicky voted against equal marriage, he has given implementation of that law to the promoted Nick Boles MP, now an education minister. This is a mistake. I have long argued in public and in private that the women and equality brief should not be an afterthought shunted as a secondary responsibility to this ministry or that ministry, distracting a SecState from her more important job (previously Maria Miller, as SoS for Culture, was also Minister for Women). Margot James would be the perfect person to be Women and Equalities Minister. She is gay, and she is a feminist, previously Vice-Chairman of the Party for Women. But more than that, she brings a Conservative, libertarian, business-minded feminism to the brief. Women and Equalities should be a Minister of State position inside the Cabinet Office, and the holder should have the right to attend Cabinet.
Margot James would do things with this brief. She would end the scandal of OFSTED guidance on Muslim schools that breaches the Equality Act (forced wearing of the veil, even for non-Muslim girls, forced segregation). She would get rid of the anomalies that favor men throughout the system. She would stand up for equality of opportunity – that was at the heart of Thatcherism.
Failing this, the PM should correct his mistake. It would be a sign of his strength and flexibility. He should either make her a senior whip or make her co-Chairman of the Party (I don’t care if there are three) and a Cabinet Minister right away. She is able, loyal, experienced, hard-working, 56, charming, and has proven ability to run a whelk stall.
Come on David – make us all happy.
David Cameron has had a lot of work and loyalty from Margot James, who because she was an entrepreneur, gay, telegenic and full of substance, was asked by CCHQ to do much extra work in 2010 on the media to win our party the election. She took on those duties unstintingly, as well as ousting a Labour MP from her marginal seat. The Prime Minister owes Margot James a debt. He too is hardworking and loyal. It is time for him to pay his debt. Margot was chosen to represent the ‘new face’ of the modern Tory party and she surely does. It’s time to show that this was not just a PR stunt, and that we believe that impressive entrepreneurs like her are exactly what the Party offers the voters to run the nation.
To my knowledge, Margot, though undoubtedly disappointed at not having been promoted up until now, has always bitten her tongue. This time, though, it clearly bothered her. To Shipman’s tweet, she replied “I don’t know Tim, but if you ever find out, let me know!”
If Margot James is lost to the party it will be a massive embarrassment. It should not happen. She should be promoted now, to give her a year in place before the election. Cameron can make it happen. We need Women to Win, is a great Conservative slogan. We also need women WHO win. And that’s Margot James, Conservative MP for Stourbridge.