Each year for the last eight years I have convened a panel to compile a list of the Top 100 Most Influential People on the Right. This year our panel was comprised of a current Member of Parliament, a former MP, a current special advisor, a former CCHQ staffer, a political lobby journalist and a senior party official.
Here’s the top 50 people on the right:
1. (+1) David Cameron
Having won an unexpected majority at the election, David Cameron takes over the top place in this list once again, having lost it to both Nigel Farage and George Osborne in recent years. He now has two to three years to create a lasting political legacy. Will he be the prime minister who leads us out of the EU, or seals our place at the heart of it?
2. (+1) George Osborne
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Like Lynton Crosby, George Osborne is at the height of his powers. His image has been transformed. The economy is on the up. He’s effectively running the government’s domestic policy. He’s also taken over the mantle of favourite to succeed David Cameron, a dangerous position to hold as he well knows.
3. (+2) Lynton Crosby
General Election Campaign Director
Tim Ross’s forthcoming book WHY THE TORIES WON lays bare the contribution Lynton Crosby made to the Tory victory in May. Revered as a God-like figure in CCHQ, Crosby is at the peak of his powers and the next Tory leader will prostrate themselves in front of him, begging him to return to run the campaign in 2020, and rightly so.
4. (-3) Nigel Farage
Leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party
It’s been a funny old year for Nigel Farage. Nearly 4 million votes, yet only one MP to show for it. The disaster of his post election non resignation is still a millstone around his neck and he shows little sign of being able to unify his warring forces.
5. (+1) Theresa May
Now the longest serving Home Secretary for decades, it was in some ways a shame that Theresa May wasn’t made Foreign Secretary in the post election reshuffle, giving her more experience of issues she’d need to be on top of if she succeeds David Cameron. Her weakness is the lack of identifiable ‘Mayites’ on the backbenches. She’s got a couple of years to work on that.
6. (+3) Jeremy Hunt
Secretary of State for Health
On election night, when they thought the Tories would lose, there was a conversation around the Cameron dining table in which he and his colleagues identified Jeremy Hunt as Cameron’s successor. If he discovers a harder political edge, it could still happen. The outsider often wins in the end.
7. (+4) Samantha Cameron
Wife of the Prime Minister
Evidence grows by the month of the quiet, behind the scenes influence Samantha Cameron has on her husband. She knows her own mind and she’d not be human if she didn’t use every opportunity to get her husband to do what in her mind is the “right thing”, especially on humanitarian intervention in the Syrian crisis.
8. (-) Sajid Javid
Secretary State for Business, Innovation & Skills
A smooth operator, Javid is being talked about as one of the leading contenders to take over from David Cameron. He’s in a job which will allow him to shine, and his response to the Redcar steel crisis has been impressive. We now need to see more of his personality and personal narrative.
9. (+33) Ruth Davidson
Leader, Scottish Conservatives
Ruth Davidson has had a stonking leader in charge of the Scottish Conservatives. They may only have one MP but she expects to increase the number of MSPs in the Scottish elections next May. If she were in Westminster she’d be a serious candidate to lead the UK party.
10. (-6) Boris Johnson
Mayor of London
Not the best of years for the newly elected MP for Uxbridge, but no one should write him off. Still the darling of rank and file Tories, he’s got time to rebuild his reputation and bounce back, but his main challenge is to convince his fellow MPs that he should be in the final two in a leadership contest.
11. (+1) Michael Gove
Secretary of State for Justice
Gove has shaken himself off and dusted himself down and got on with the job. He’s abandoned some of Chris Grayling’s reforms, and struck a very different tone on prisoner rehabilitation.
12. (-5) Philip Hammond
A rather quiet year for Philip Hammond, which is odd given the situation in the middle east and Europe. If he’s to be a leadership contender he needs to define himself more and market his ideas and appeal. He’s actually got a really funny sense of humour. He should show it more.
13. (-3) Lord Michael Ashcroft
Businessman & Philanthropist
The fuss over Michael Ashcroft’s & Isabel Oakeshott’s book is testament to his continuing influence on matters Conservative. His political business interests and ownership of ConservativeHome mean that he’s unlikely to disappear from the political scene, however much his detractors in Downing Street might relish the prospect.
14. (-) Michael Fallon
Secretary of State for Defence
Mr Dependable, Fallon is often sent onto the airwaves to defend the impossible, but he does it with panache. Can he, though, be the Defence Secretary that finally reverses the defence cuts?
15. (NEW) Mark Harper
A remarkable renaissance for this very popular Conservative MP and proof that if you play it right there is a way back after a resignation. An inspired appointment, Harper is a uniting force but knows how to be firm and impose party discipline.
16. (+31) Zac Goldsmith
Conservative candidate for Mayor of London
This time next year Zac will either be in the top ten, or a bit of a busted flush. The seven month long campaign will tell us a lot about whether this idealist and original thinker can become a top flight politician or not.
17. (-) Chris Grayling
Leader of the House of Commons
A great survivor, Chris Grayling is revelling in his new role, away from the bed of nails that is the Ministry of Justice. He will be an influential player in the EU referendum campaign, and it’s even rumoured he may even resign to support the ‘No’ campaign – a prelude to a leadership bid as the standard bearer of the right?
18. (-) Iain Duncan Smith
Secretary of State for Work & Pensions
Undoubtedly the most radical reformer in the government, he has taken a huge amount of flak, but it washes him like water off a duck’s back. He has pursued his reforms with a zeal other cabinet ministers could learn a lot from.
19. (-) Nicky Morgan
Secretary of State for Education
If she is to set herself up as the key female rival to Theresa May for the leadership, she will need to define her brand of Conservatism. Constantly underestimated by her rivals, Morgan is a good performer on the broadcast media, but she does need to acquire some ideological grit.
20. (-4) Edward Llewellyn
Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister
It had been thought Ed Llewellyn might depart for a diplomatic appointment, but it seems he will stay for the duration, or at least until the EU referendum, in which he will be a key influence on the PM, which is exactly what Eurosceptics fear.
21. (+10) Lord Daniel Finkelstein
Columnist, The Times
Danny Finkelstein is said to form one half of George Osborne’s brain. The two have been inseparable since working together in William Hague’s private office, and if Osborne does inherit the leadership expect Finkelstein to perform a leading role in his administration.
22. (+37) Lord Andrew Feldman
Chairman of the Conservative Party
In many ways it’s quite outrageous that Feldman’s main qualification for this job is that he is David Cameron’s best friend, but he’s been very effective in his roles at CCHQ over the years and is now overseeing a root and branch overhaul of the party machinery, but his detractors maintain that his lack of background in the party means he can’t understand the consequences of some of his recommendations.
23. (NEW) Thea Rogers
Chief of Staff to George Osborne
Thea Rogers has almost singlehandedly managed the transformation of the Chancellor’s image in the last two years, and to great effect. If he becomes leader in 2019 it will be in part due to the fact that he has accepted her PR advice. She’s now taken over Rupert Harrison’s role as chief of staff, but let no one imagine she will be stepping back from advising the Chancellor on his image or media engagements.
24. (-1) Matthew Hancock
Minister for the Cabinet Office
It had been assumed that Hancock would have made the full cabinet, probably as chief secretary, but as with Grant Shapps, his loyalty didn’t quite get its full desserts. He now has to sell the trade union bill to his colleagues and the public, which will be no mean feat considering it’s a bit of a dog’s breakfast.
25. (-3) Graham Brady
Chairman, 1922 Committee
The role of the 1922 committee chairman in a parliament where the Tories have a majority of only 12 is hugely important. The PM needs to know what his backbenchers are thinking and Brady tells him in no uncertain terms.
26. (-5) Oliver Letwin
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
He’s the Scarlet Pimpernel of the government – the media seek him here, they seek him there, but he never seems to give interviews and just gets on with his job of, well, being very quietly very effective.
27. (+19) John Whittingdale
Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport
An inspired appointment, but he is showing worrying signs of going native on reform of the BBC and recanting on his previously strongly held views that the licence fee is an anachronism.
28. (+21) Robert Halfon
Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party
One of the most popular members of the parliamentary party, Halfon has been given an important role at CCHQ. If he does it well, he’ll be heading for a top ministerial position within a couple of years.
29. (+1) Catherine Fall
Deputy Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister
Said to be the member of his staff that is most trusted by the Prime Minister. Discrete, loyal and never in the public eye, she hasn’t made a single error in ten years working for the PM.
30. (-5) Patrick McLoughlin
Secretary of State for Transport
A great survivor, many expected Cameron to despatch Patrick McLoughlin to the backbenches in the post-election reshuffle, but they underestimated him. He’s the ultimate safe pair of hands.
31. (+12) Greg Clark
Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government
The quietly spoken Clark is now a cabinet minister in his own right and heads a department where he can really make a mark. Some think he could use this position to be a dark horse candidate in the forthcoming leadership race.
32. (-3) Andrew Tyrie
Chairman, Treasury Select Committee
Tyrie has been an excellent chairman of the Treasury Select Committee. He may radiate calmness and niceness, but he has the forensic ability to question a witness which some of his colleagues sadly do not.
33. (+4) Daniel Hannan
MEP for South East England
His articulate advocacy of EU withdrawal will be vital to the Eurosceptic cause as the referendum draws ever closer. Once it’s over many expect him to make a bid to stand for Westminster in 2020.
34. (-) Paul Goodman
One of the few non MPs on this list who can phone up any cabinet minister and they’ll take his call immediately. He seems to have become more radical as the years go by and isn’t afraid to offer constructive criticism where he feels it is merited.
35. (-) Jesse Norman
Chair, Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee
Possibly the most talented of the 2010 intake not to be promoted to ministerial office, Jesse Norman doesn’t deserve to continue to be blackballed by No.10 for his rebellion over House of Lords reform. He’s now decided to go in a different direction and won his battle to be chairman of his select committee over stiff opposition.
36. (-9) Jo Johnson
Minister for Universities
The lesser known of the Johnsons, he drops a little in this year’s list, not least because so many people seem to think his two promotions happened in part because No. 10 knew they would irk Boris. Maybe unfair, but that’s how people think in the Westminster bubble.
37. (+8) Matthew Elliott
Chief Executive, Business for Britain
Having run the successful No2AV campaign, Elliott was a natural to run the Business for Britain campaign, which argues the Eurosceptic case. He’s more back room than front of house but certainly knows how to campaign and lobby.
38. (+1) Lord Stephen Gilbert
Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party
As Head of campaigns, Gilbert oversaw the CCHQ election campaign and was rewarded for it with a deserved peerage. He has been at the centre of things during the reigns o four successive leaders and is popular throughout the party.
39. (-24) Grant Shapps
Minister of State, Department for International Department
If there were any justice, having helped deliver a general election win, Shapps would have remained in the top 20 in this list. However, following a bout of unwelcome publicity he became too hot to handle, so No. 10 thought a period out of the limelight would be in order. Maybe they were right, but many think Shapps was dealt a raw deal.
40. (+18) Anna Soubry
Minister of State for Small Business
A highly effective media performer it can’t be long before Anna Soubry is promoted to the full cabinet. It was testament to her abilities that she held on to her highly marginal seat and increased her majority to more than 4,200.
41. (-28) William Hague
Former Foreign Secretary
William Hague has been largely silent since the election, adding fuel to the thought that he really has quit politics for good. He will, however, have enduring influence if, like John Major, he picks his time to comment on the great issues of the day.
42. (+31) Greg Hands
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Probably the least well known member of the cabinet, he has made a good start to his new job as George Osborne’s right hand man. Indeed, it is said that he and David Gauke are effectively running the show, while the Chancellor busies himself with gearing up for a leadership bid.
43. (+14) Neil O’Brien
The former head of Policy Exchange, O’Brien is the man behind the Chancellor’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and has come up with many of Osborne’s more populist ideas. Never one to seek the limelight, he’s been a top addition to the Chancellor’s team.
44. (-11) Douglas Carswell
UKIP MP for Clacton
Nowadays he looks a fish out of water in UKIP and one can’t help wondering whether he has come to regret his defection. However, he still has a following within UKIP among those who have grown tired of Nigel Farage’s leadership.
45. (-9) Tim Montgomerie
Columnist, The Times
About to depart these shores for a sojourn in the United States covering the Presidential election, Montgomerie falls a few places in this year’s list. His work at Legatum and his Times columns, though, mean that he retains a large degree of influence over the direction of right of centre politics.
46. (+4) Donal Blaney
Chairman, Conservative Way Forward & Chief Executive, Young Britons Foundation
Blaney has transformed the fortunes of CWF and recruited hundreds of younger members to its ranks, many of whom weren’t born when Margaret Thatcher left office. He has brought US campaigning methods to the UK and his teams of volunteers player a key role in marginal seats in the election.
47. (NEW) Graeme Wilson
Press Secretary to David Cameron
Wilson has managed never to become the story, and is completely trusted by his former colleagues in the parliamentary lobby.
48. (-4) Nicholas Boles
Minister for Skills
One of the few free thinkers within government, if talent was the only consideration, Boles would be in the cabinet. He carries his think tank history with him and delights in thinking the unthinkable.
49. (+48) Suzanne Evans
UKIP GLA Candidate
Having written the UKIP manifesto, and getting many plaudits for it, Evans was seemingly Nigel Farage’s heir apparent, but since the election he has done everything to undermine her. Despite this she has retained a sense of calmness and humour and remains firmly on the sensible wing of UKIP.
50. (NEW) Brandon Lewis
Minister for Housing
A protege of Eric Pickles, Lewis has performed well in his different roles at the DCLG and is often used as a government spokesman across government policy. Could well be in the cabinet before too long.