No champagne for Claire Perry as she grabs the tiller at the Ministry of Defence
You might think she was jumping up and down with delight and supping champagne in celebration, but Marlborough’s outspoken Tory MP Claire Perry has remarkably gone into her shell now that she has joined the government.
She has declined requests from Marlborough News Online to say something joyous to her local constituents, perhaps to swamp the current economic gloom in Europe.
Instead Mrs Perry has announced “Exciting News!” at the very end of her latest – and belated – newsletter to party members, revealing: “The final news of the week was an unexpected promotion to become Parliamentary Private Secretary to Philip Hammond, the new Secretary of State for Defence. I am very much looking forward to the challenge.”
That’s it, which is a shame given her hard work on the back benches, one of 20 mainly new Tory MPs forever raising questions and highlighting the government’s limited success in the face of recession.
Elegantly tall Mrs Perry, 47, married with three children, is of course a former New York banker and worked in the office of George Osborne in his days as shadow Chancellor before last year’s general election, her only political experience.
Then she was the surprise Conservative choice to replace Michael Ancram when he stepped down from his long reign as Devizes MP and Cabinet minister following the expenses scandal.
Since then she has shown that she does have her own inimitable sexy ways of grabbing attention, whether it be in tearoom encounters with the Speaker, John Bercow, when he failed to call her in the Commons chamber or the way she deflects criticism from David Cameron and other members of the government.
The lobbying scandal involving fellow West Country MP Dr Liam Fox is one example. Before he stepped down as Secretary of State for Defence, and the Cabinet reshuffle benefited her, Claire announced:
“Parliament is at its best when politicians work together across party lines on important issues and at its worst when it gets mired in scandal and intrigue, as we saw this week.”
“What matters is that we have a sound hand on the tiller in government departments and this is even more important in the Ministry of Defence given the on-going conflict in Afghanistan and the budgetary black hole of £38 billion left by the last government, which also had five Secretaries of State for Defence in five years with two of those not even full-time.”
Now she will be able to discover exactly what has gone wrong in the Ministry of Defence – and find some answers to the nagging questions she has raised about the five Army bases in her Devizes constituencies.
Soldiers at Tidworth – and their wives – will no doubt be waiting for good news sometime soon, though being in such a secretive, cash-strapped and high profile department of state will undoubtedly curb the criticisms Claire has made since the coalition was formed.
Will that keep Claire quiet? Or will she next appear in Marlborough driving a tank in Margaret Thatcher fashion?
We wait with cameras ready.