A new job for John - but Ken might have to sign on

Several Cabinet ministers may find themselves looking for new positions after the election. So Graham Ball took their CVs to a headhunter
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The Independent Online
Would you give a job in business to an unemployed 56-year-old with no recent commercial or industrial experience, but with a Cambridge law degree and a keen interest in modern jazz, birdwatching and sport?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kenneth Clarke, could be one of a large number of leading Government figures coping with an enforced career change in the year ahead.

If Labour wins next year's general election, the majority of the current Cabinet could become jobseekers. So how would John Major and his colleagues fare?

In the past, senior Tory politicians have found comfortable berths in a variety of City and leading plc boardrooms. The Independent on Sunday passedbrief CVs of the Prime Minister and three of his most influential colleagues to a top City headhunter, Sean Arnold ofOdgers, and, without revealing their identities, asked for an assessment of their prospects.

Jobseeker One: Male. Age 53. Current employment: chief executive of a large corporation. Previous experience: worked in financial services. Areas of responsibility: originating policy and strategy, presentation to shareholders, supervision of main board. Principal skills: dependability, good at shareholder AGMs. Education: state schools, no degree. Recreation: opera, football, cricket. Married, two children. (This is the Prime Minister, John Major.)

Sean Arnold's assessment: "Quite promising. Experience at the helm of a big corporation is valuable, especially if he is a 'safe pair of hands'. Skill with handling shareholders is also a plus point and by the sound of the CV this individual could handle a big job with a major plc or multinational again. But as an individual he may opt for a less stressful way of life in which case he would look to put together a portfolio of non-executive directorships."

Jobseeker Two: Female. Age 48. Current employment: director concerned with public relations and corporate affairs. Previous experience: health administration. Skills: personal presentation, charm, ability to take tough decisions. Education: Essex University (BA), London School of Economics (MSc). Recreations: walking, the performing arts. Married, two children. (Virginia Bottomley, Heritage Secretary.)

Assessment: "Good. Experience in health care and a good record in administration make this candidate a strong contender to head a big health trust authority. The fact that she is a woman also helps. Her experience in corporate affairs means she could move into the consultancy field advising leading corporations as an outside specialist."

Jobseeker Three: Male. Age 50. Current employment: overseas sales director. Previous experience: regional director. Skills: ability to think on his feet. Rigorous intellect, excellent foreign contacts. Education: Edinburgh University (LLB, MSc). Recreation: reading. Married. (Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind, who is also a QC.)

Assessment: "A lot would depend on how good his foreign contacts are. He would need to stay within the field he has sales experience in as his ability to retrain at 50 is not high. It would be better if he had more general management skills as they are more sought after and portable."

Jobseeker Four: Male. Age 56. Current employment: financial director. Previous experience: worked his way up in increasingly important management roles. Now in charge of substantial cash resources. Skills: tough negotiator with shrewd accountancy brain. Sense of humour and flair. Education: Gonville and Caius College, Cambs (BA, LLB). Recreation: modern jazz, watching sport,ornithology. Married. (Chancellor Kenneth Clarke, who is also a QC.)

Assessment: "Not so rosy. His financial background is a big plus but at his age many companies would balk at taking on his pension requirement and might opt for a man in his forties. He could become a company doctor sorting out firms for shareholders and investors. Or he could become involved with venture capitalists and lead management buy-ins. His background would be very useful when it comes to raising funds."

In reality, former Conservative politicians are likely to find it harder to obtain comfortable new jobs than colleagues who left politics in recent years.

"The problem for these individuals will be that, if they are looking for a job, it follows that a Labour government will be in power, so it will be very much harder for them to pull the levers of power for their new employers," said Sean Arnold. "The other limiting factor is that the standing of ex-politicians is not now at an all-time high."