Elections happen with such regularity these days, there was one this week that may have passed you by. Whilst it had a smaller franchise than most elections, the results could have a serious impact on the direction of the 2017 Parliament and beyond. The election of Select Committee chairs saw fellow MPs vote for an overwhelming set of centrist MPs to take charge of key committees – and the new appointments won’t be making life for the Government comfortable.
Former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan – dispatched from her duties by Theresa May a year ago – now finds herself in charge of the powerful Treasury Select Committee. Morgan, a passionate Remainer and a leading Conservative moderate, is not one to hold back on speaking out against her own Government. Elsewhere, Tom Tugendhat, a leading MP from the 2015 Conservative intake, becomes Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Not only did he displace fellow veteran Tory, Crispin Blunt, to take the role, earlier this month he criticised the lack of clarity in the Government’s global strategy. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson won’t have an easy ride when the two men come face to face.
Labour moderates find themselves well represented too, with Lilian Greenwood taking the reins at Transport, whilst former Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Rachel Reeves will lead the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee. Reeves’s committee has a wide-ranging remit and it will be worth watching where she places the spotlight, as well as draws from her experiences at the Bank of England to campaigning work on the Living Wage. With Labour and the Tories facing strained relations with many parts of the business community, expect Reeves to highlight the fissures.
Running a Government with no overall majority, May should expect a tricky time from Select Committee chairs. Success for the newly elected chairs will be to rise above partisanship, and deliver reports that not only cut through, but for them, help change the direction of Government policy. Select Committee chairs used to be Parliamentarians with years – decades – of experience. The changing dynamic in Parliament this time sees a collection of (relative) newcomers take charge of these roles. Other MPs will be watching with care – as these MPs have ambitions far beyond chairing a backbench committee. And in their new roles, they’ll be doing all they can to alter the course of Mrs May’s rocky ship.