'Stephen who?' takes the heritage trail in his stride

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The Independent Online
STEPHEN DORRELL's secret fan club broke into broad smiles yesterday as most of the rest of the country said: 'Stephen who?'

The new Heritage Secretary probably didn't know it, but he'd been a big hit with the Treasury security guards for years - unlike his Cabinet colleagues.

'They're a bunch of ignorant gits except for that Stephen Dorrell,' said one of the security men yesterday. 'That Kenneth Clarke - the Hush Puppy King, we call him - he never says hello, neither does that Michael Portillo. But Mr Dorrell always smiles and occasionally stops for a chat.'

Mr Dorrell, 42, was careful not to chat too much yesterday as the sun rose on his flat in Marsham Court, a haven for Tory MPs, and a stone's throw from the Palace of Westminster. As he grunted his way through the heavy foyer doors at 8.50am with two large red Treasury boxes, it would be wrong to say he had a spring in his step. But he did have a glint in his eye.

'It's just an ordinary day for me,' he said. 'No, I don't know if I will be included in the reshuffle. I read the papers and I hear there might be something, but I don't believe everything I read in the


Perhaps, however, he knew more than he was letting on. The man once tipped by John Major as a future prime minister cancelled a speaking engagement at Oxford and waited at his Treasury office for The Call. He had only 90 minutes to wait.

Dressed in a neat grey suit, he walked the 100 yards along Whitehall to Downing Street, excused his way through the tourists and headed for high office.

It was a tense half hour outside No 10, punctuated ominously by an official who left and returned carrying a box of Kleenex tissues. Perhaps, it was suggested, he was waiting for John Patten.

At 11.10am, with the sun high in the sky, Mr Dorrell emerged with an expression of barely disguised joy. He remained silent until the news was officially released, then made no attempt to hide his delight. 'I think it's a wonderful opportunity and a post that still has a lot of potential, despite the good work of my predecessors,' he said. 'I'm not going to pretend I have a long-standing passion for music or art. But I do bring a lay person's enjoyment and a lot of enthusiasm to the job.'

His wife, Penelope, would have a champagne celebration with him tonight, he said. But last night Mr Dorrell, who was once described as being 'as far left as they come without falling off the edge of the Tory Party', had an engagement with members from the Denbigh Group, an offshoot of the right-wing Bruges Group.

'I do find it an interesting irony that I shall be celebrating my elevation to the Cabinet with people from the right wing of the party,' he said. 'I don't know if they will find it fun, but I shall enjoy myself enormously.'

(Photograph omitted)