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Post-election reshuffle – contenders for Defra top job

With the Conservatives riding high in the latest polls, rumour has it the Prime Minister is preparing to axe a number of cabinet ministers after the election – including Defra Secretary Andrea Leadsom.



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Defra Secretary Andrea Leadsom
Defra Secretary Andrea Leadsom
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Who's up for the Defra top job after #GE2017? @FGAbiKay takes a look

Mrs Leadsom, who challenged May for the leadership after the EU referendum, has been criticised by the farming community and the devolved administrations for refusing to provide any detail about a post-Brexit agricultural policy.

 

We take a look at the runners and riders for the top job should the Tories win a majority...


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George Eustice

George Eustice

An MP with hands-on experience of working on a fruit farm, Mr Eustice is also a Government veteran, having spent the last four years as a Minister at Defra.

 

A master of this complicated brief, he could be seen as a safe pair of hands to carry the industry over the Brexit finish line.

 

He was also a vocal supporter of the UK’s departure from the EU, which should help to counter any claims of a soft-Brexiteer coup if May replaces other hardliners in the cabinet.

Rory Stewart

Rory Stewart

Fearsomely clever Mr Stewart has over a year’s experience working as Environment Minister at Defra, where he made his mark with a fascinating speech about hedgehogs which was referred to as ‘one of the best ever made’ in the Commons.

 

He also represents the rural seat of Penrith and the Border, and has been busy polishing his ministerial skills following a promotion to Minister of State at the Department for International of Development last year.

Karen Bradley

Karen Bradley

It is not hard to see a sideways move to Defra for current Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Karen Bradley.

 

Representing the very rural seat of Staffordshire Moorlands, she is familiar with farming and her current brief covers cross-cutting issues such as rural broadband.

 

She also worked as a junior minister at the Home Office during Theresa May’s tenure as Home Secretary, so is close to the Prime Minister.

Priti Patel

Priti Patel

An outspoken leaver who used to want to bring back the death penalty, Mrs Patel is MP for Witham in Essex – a seat with a large rural population.

 

She openly supported Theresa May for the leadership, claiming Andrea Leadsom could not have won a general election and would have been a Jeremy Corbyn-type figure for the Conservatives.

 

Despite previously claiming she wanted to see the Department for International Development scrapped, she was appointed Secretary of State there after the EU referendum.

 

Were she to make the move to Defra, her position on the right of the Tory Party could, as with Eustice, help Mrs May fend off accusations of a watered-down Brexit.

Tracey Crouch

Tracey Crouch

Anti-foxhunting, anti-badger cull MP Tracey Crouch could be a controversial pick for Defra, but she has two years of ministerial experience under her belt at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, where she has responsibility for tourism – a portfolio which has a fairly heavy focus on the countryside.

 

She supported Theresa May in the leadership election, but refused to reveal which way she voted in the EU referendum.

Robert Goodwill

Robert Goodwill

Active arable farmer Robert Goodwill could be a good outside bet.

 

The Scarborough and Whitby MP served time in the European Parliament before taking his seat in Yorkshire, giving him good insider knowledge of the EU’s institutions and its attitude towards agriculture – which is sure to come in handy as the Brexit talks begin.

 

He has also been busy building up his front-bench skills. He was appointed a Government whip in 2012, then spent three years at the Department for Transport as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and Minister of State, before being given the job as Minister for Immigration in July last year.

Mark Garnier

Mark Garnier

Ultra-loyal Wyre Forest MP Mr Garnier was made a junior minister at the Department for International Trade after the EU referendum, during which he supported the remain campaign.

 

His brief at DIT covers agriculture – though a row broke out shortly after his appointment because there was no mention of it in his official list of responsibilities. His experience of covering the faming portfolio at the new trade department could help him at Defra, where exports are known to be key.

 

Mr Garnier has previously weighed into debates on shooting, complaining about a Labour Party proposal to set a minimum age for owning a shotgun certificate.

Sarah Newton

Sarah Newton

Cornish MP Sarah Newton has campaigned strongly on food and farming issues since her election in 2010.

 

A vocal remain supporter and backer of Theresa May during the leadership election, Mrs Newton was rewarded with a post in Government as a junior minister at the Home Office after the referendum.

 

Her seat could, however, be vulnerable to a Liberal Democrat resurgence in June – in 2010 her majority was just 435 with the Lib Dems in second place. This increased to 14,000 in 2015, but with her seat bucking the Cornish trend and voting remain, Brexit could be a problem.

Penny Mordaunt

Penny Mordaunt

A high-flying Royal Naval Reservist, Ms Mordaunt has relatively little experience of rural issues given she represents the urban seat of Portsmouth North.

 

She raised eyebrows when she revealed she had spoken in a House of Commons debate on poultry welfare in order to use the word ‘cock’ as a forfeit for a misdemeanour during Naval Reserve training.

 

But she does have three years’ experience working as a junior minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Ministry of Defence and, most recently, the Department for Work and Pensions.

 

A prominent leave campaigner and backer of Mrs Leadsom’s aborted leadership bid, Ms Mordaunt has been branded a ‘rising star’ and has risen up the ranks since her election in 2010.

Harriett Baldwin

Harriett Baldwin

Former banker Harriett Baldwin represents West Worcestershire in the Commons, a seat known for its regional foods and an area which is dominated by agriculture.

 

She has campaigned on many food and farming-related issues since her election in 2010 and also has experience of trade, which could come in useful at Defra, having served as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Russia under David Cameron.

 

A remain supporter with three years’ experience of Government working as a whip, in the Treasury and at the Ministry of Defence, she also backed Mrs May for the leadership.

Tips for new junior ministers…

  • Hexham – Guy Opperman
  • Skipton and Ripon – Julian Smith
  • Sherwood – Mark Spencer
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