Mark Leftly: He may be an octopus but the minister for everything has only got two hands

Westminster Outlook Michael Fallon is Westminster's – and the world's – first land-dwelling, four-limbed octopus, his tentacles wrapped around Whitehall, circular suckers incapable of being removed from powerful ministries of state.

However, David Cameron's most overworked minister doesn't lurk in the depths like his fellow cephalopods: this surgeon's son is forced to answer for his political actions in front of committees of MPs and lords far too often to spend even fleeting moments out of sight.

Rather, Mr Fallon's reach is extraordinary – not in the manner of a Lord Mandelson with his ethereal, mysterious "influence" – but physically. It seems that the former City stockbroking boss is almost everywhere in Parliament, virtually all of the time.

Now Mr Fallon has the opportunity to stretch those tentacles out of London as this month yet another full-time job, minister for Portsmouth, has been dumped on him. The 61-year-old has been charged by the Prime Minister with helping the city that is home to the wooden remains of the Mary Rose cope with BAE Systems' decision to close its historic shipyard there.

That's a third ministerial role to add to Mr Fallon's existing energy and business portfolios, which encompass – deep breath – building new nuclear power stations; privatising Royal Mail; promoting shale gas; sorting out the London 2012 Olympic "legacy" (as well as, presumably, working out just what that self-important yet vague word actually means); reviewing the Coal Authority; and dishing out North Sea oil exploration licences.

That's far from an exhaustive list of Mr Fallon's responsibilities, while he is also tipped as a future Tory party chairman. For good measure, he has, presumably, risked the wrath of the particularly vengeful god answered to by the Ukip councillor David "floods for gay marriage" Silvester, by arguing that the anti-EU party is still full of "fruitcakes".

No one doubts Mr Fallon's competence and intellect. Compare, for example, his performance against that of his boss at the business department, Vince Cable, during a November grilling over the privatisation of Royal Mail.

Mr Cable – features rapidly developing into William Gladstone's but without a trace of the Grand Old Man's exuberant verbosity – gave a masterclass in obfuscation as increasingly frustrated MPs sought an acknowledgement that the service had been sold off on the cheap at 330p a share. Mr Fallon, by contrast, gave the impression that he couldn't care less if the taxpayer had lost a couple of billion pounds because the shares had perhaps been underpriced when they debuted on the Stock Exchange. What mattered was to "protect the six-day-a-week service by ensuring there was a privatisation that meant there was a sustainable share price and the Government would not have to step in and provide any extra capital for this business".

While Mr Cable talked of judging the transaction in the "longer term", Mr Fallon took the criticism while rather artfully arguing that the price was never the point. Ensuring Royal Mail's commercial future and that the state would never again have to pour billions into guiding the service through any failures was far more important.

In boxing parlance, Mr Cable was a "runner", well out of range of his opponent but unwilling to engage and land any blows himself. Mr Fallon counterpunched, which, as any pugilist will tell you, is a far more effective tactic than throwing no leather at all. Long limbs and a good reach also help keep an opponent at bay, but Mr Fallon is, of course, only a figurative octopus.

He is, indeed, but one man and it's increasingly hard to believe that he can cope with all these jobs.

Towards the end of last year, and before he had responsibility for rescuing Portsmouth from what will inevitably be a leap in local unemployment, there was barely a day that went by when he wasn't up before a select committee, such as that inquiry into Royal Mail.

Which is why the Labour MP Alison Seabeck has just sent the Prime Minister a letter (rather cheekily addressed "Dear David") demanding to "know the range of responsibilities that Mr Fallon has been given for Portsmouth, beyond his duties specific to business and energy". There's little politicking here, as Ms Seabeck acknowledges Mr Fallon's skills even if she does not share his views.

And she is not alone in her opinion. The tasks of bridging our yawning energy gap, placing a mail service that has spent 500 years in the hands of the state into the private sector, and reviving a city that will lose one of its great sources of jobs should be divided among three people, not packaged up for one.

Some Conservatives have described Mr Fallon as being the PM's ghostbuster: "If there's something weird and it don't look good, who ya gonna call? Michael Fallon!" (readers under the age of 30 should probably type "Ray Parker, lyrics and Ghostbusters into Google).

However, Mr Cameron doesn't have to call Mr Fallon as he has more than 300 other MPs at his disposal, as well as 57 Liberal Democrats he could draw upon. And beyond that he could dip into the wealth of experience to be found among those not snoozing in the Lords.

Rather than an octopus or a ghostbuster, Mr Fallon could be described as the omnipresent polymath of Parliament.

That certainly sounds a touch grander than MP for Sevenoaks and Swanley – but that was, after all, the job he was elected to carry out.

News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

Trust Accountant - Kent

NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

Graduate Recruitment Consultant - 2013/14 Grads - No Exp Needed

£18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £30000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

Law Costs

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - Law Costs Draftsperson - NICHE...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?