Theresa May's Government: First step on the rungs of power

29 July 2016

Parliamentary Private Secretaries (PPSs) are sometimes portrayed as little more than caddies to their ministerial superiors. Their most prominent public role is in passing messages between the officials’ box and their ministers at the Despatch Box.

However, while seemingly ornamental, the role of a PPS is to bridge the gap between the backbenchers in the party and Government ministers, providing a political line of communication and assisting ministers in their tasks.

Further, the role is seen as the first rung on the ministerial ladder and can be a way to identify some of the rising stars on the Government benches.

For more details on the work of a PPS, please read DeHavilland’s analysis piece here.

New appointments

As would be expected, PPSs are normally MPs who have not served in Parliament for a very extensive period of time.

Most PPSs appointed in the most recent reshuffle came from the 2010 intake, though a significant proportion only entered Parliament in 2015.

One exception to this is Stewart Jackson, who bucks the trend in a number of ways. Elected to Parliament in 2005, Mr Jackson previously served as an Opposition Whip and PPS to Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson.

However, he went on to lose his position after defying the party Whip in 2010 to vote in favour of an EU referendum. He is now PPS to Brexit Secretary David Davis, with the Euroscepticism that once led to him being booted out now embraced as Government policy.

The nature of the PPS position also means that very few people tend to stay in post during reshuffles, often moving to become PPSs to more senior ministers or - for the fortunate few - becoming fully-fledged ministers in their own right.

The only aide to remain in post during this reshuffle appears to be Robert Jenrick, who has stayed as PPS to the Justice Secretary even as the role passed hands from Michael Gove to Liz Truss.

His decision to go against his boss and campaign for Remain during the referendum may have served him well in separating him from Mr Gove during the latter’s removal from Government.

Among those making the biggest leaps in the recent reshuffle is Craig Williams. Having only been elected in 2015, he has now become PPS to Chief Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke. A former Policy Advisor, the move augurs well for Mr Williams’ future ministerial prospects.

Though much has been made of the improved gender balance in the Cabinet following Ms May’s appointment as Prime Minister, the same does not appear to be true lower down the ministerial ladder. Of the 23 PPSs whose appointment has been announced, only five are women.

While not necessarily problematic at present, this may impact the development of talent within the Conservative Party and thus restrict the Government’s ability to promote women in the future

PPSs to key Secretaries of State

PPS to Prime Minister Theresa May – George Hollingbery

Having served as a PPS to Ms May between 2012 and 2015 during her tenure as Home Secretary, Mr Hollingbery has now followed Ms May in moving to Number 10. A former property investor and Deputy Leader of Winchester City Council, he has has taken a keen interest in rural issues, including the rollout of broadband, and has been a vocal opponent of fracking.

PPS to Chancellor Philip Hammond – John Glen

Mr Glen has acted as a PPS since 2012, rising from his original appointment as PPS to Communities Secretary Sir Eric Pickles to become PPS to Business Secretary Sajid Javid in May 2015, and now being appointed to assist the Chancellor. Another rural MP, Mr Glen has been vocal on issues such as poverty, especially rural poverty, and used his maiden speech to call for the removal of red tape and regulation in the farming and horticultural sector. His slow climb through the ranks indicates that Mr Glen may be a prime candidate for a ministerial position come the next reshuffle.

PPS to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson – Andrew Stephenson

Although his first term in Parliament was spent entirely on the backbenches, Mr Stephenson has seen a fairly rapid rise through the ranks since the 2015 General Election. Previously appointed PPS to Minister without Portfolio Robert Halfon, he later also took on the role of PPS to Security Minister John Hayes and Policing, Fire, Criminal Justice and Victims Minister Mike Penning. He was a Leave supporter during the EU Referendum and has been openly eurosceptic for a number of years.

PPS to Home Secretary Amber Rudd – David Rutley

Mr Rutley has served as PPS to a number of ministers and Secretaries of State, Mr Rutley was most recently PPS to Work and Pensions Secretaries Iain Duncan Smith and his replacement Stephen Crabb. He went on to back Mr Crabb in the leadership contest following the EU Referendum. Before being elected to Parliament, Mr Rutley worked for Barclays, but also briefly acted as a Special Advisor to William Waldegrave, now Lord Waldegrave of North Hill, during his tenure at the Treasury, Cabinet Office and Ministry of Agriculture.

For a full list of Parliamentary Private Secretaries, please click here.

Madhav Bakshi, Political Analyst
Madhav Bakshi
Political Analyst

Madhav Bakshi is a Political Analyst within DeHavilland’s Editorial Team and leads on Energy policy. He is a graduate of King’s College London, where he studied International Politics.