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.
Back in the day, David Cameron topped the list and George Osborne was second but of the other 98 people included, 65 of them do not figure on the 2015 list. This may reflect the transient nature of today’s politics, but it on last week’s Top 100 Most Influential People on the Left list the equivalent figure was an astonishing 85.
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.
The most difficult thing when deciding who to include an exclude, is to define what ‘influence’ actually means. In the end it means being influential in a combination of national politics, the media, on the Conservative Party and its leader.
In all, there are 29 new entries in the whole list, slightly higher than normal but way fewer than the 45 which were in the Left list. Out go Francis Maude, Rupert Harrison, Jonathan Hill, Patrick O’Flynn, Esther McVey, Tim Aker, Paul Sykes and Owen Paterson. Into the dustbin of history go Diane James, Norman Tebbit and John Hayes.
In come a whole raft of journalists and commentators for the first time, including Julia Hartley-Brewer, Fraser Nelson, Peter Hitchens, Christopher Booker Matthew Parris and Simon Heffer, with Fraser Nelson being the highest new entry of that cohort at 52.
With the Conservative election victory came a change in the number and identity of many government advisers and SPADS. The list contains a whole host of new names including James Marshall, probably the most powerful SPAD you’ve never heard of – he advises the chief whip Mark Harper. Adam Atashzai, Ameet Gill, Christian Guy and Camilla Cavendish are others.
UKIP may have lost Patrick O’Flynn, Diane James and Tim Aker, but Suzanne Evans joins Nigel Farage in the top 50. Steven Woolfe MEP edges in at number 100 and Arron Banks is a new entry, while Paul Nuttall retains his place.
The panel also tried to do a bit of star spotting by including newly elected MPs. In last week’s Top Left list three new MPs were included. Our right wing panel decided they couldn’t make a case for any of the 2015 intake of Tory MPs being included. By contrast, after the 2010 election, there were three. Make of that what you will.
Interestingly, the number of the women in this year’s list has remained static at 17, but that’s only half the number of women on the Top 100 People on the Left list.
The top ten of this list hasn’t really changed much over the years, but that could well change in the next two years.
If Nicky Morgan is to make a realistic leadership bid she will need to move up this list, as will Liz Truss, whose misfortune it is to be stuck in a department where it’s difficult to make an impact on the public.
Philip Hammond has almost disappeared from view as Foreign Secretary and barely figures in any leadership discussion, but he runs one of the great offices of State.
And so to Boris. He drops in this year’s list, which I doubt whether even the great man himself would complain about. Of course, when we come to compile next year’s list he won’t be Mayor of London and will almost certainly be running a government department, or possibly more likely, the Conservative Party itself.
He has made an undistinguished start to his second stint on the Conservative benches in the House of Commons and really needs to make his mark with his fellow MPs. The older ones remember what a shamble he was when he was last there and the newer ones are slightly in awe of him. Let the early evening drinks parties begin, and begin they will, for Boris knows only too well that if he is to win the leadership election whenever it comes, he has to be voted in the top two by his fellow MPs. As things stand, that is unlikely to happen.
When David Cameron made those unguarded remarks to James Landale about only serving two terms, it soon became clear that the whole of his second term would be seen through the prism of the Cameron legacy and the ensuing leadership election. And that will become ever more so as time grinds on.
Let me finish by identifying a few people who I expect to see rise a lot in next year’s list.
Tracey Crouch is the highest new entry from the newly appointed ministers and has made a flying start as Minister for Sport. It gives her a good media platform which her predecessor Helen Grant never used. Mark Harper is the highest new entry overall, following his appointment as Chief Whip, and I expect him to make the top ten in the next three years. He’s a future Home Secretary in the making. Brandon Lewis and Amber Rudd are two others who I expect great things of.
There’s one thing for certain: politics is less boring now that it has been for years.