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UK Politics

Village People: 22/05/2010

Hunters outfoxed by team Cameron

Of all the Tories who did not make it into the coalition Cabinet, possibly the most surprising omission was Nick Herbert. He is minister for Police, an important job, but below Cabinet level.

Mr Herbert is very highly thought of by team Cameron and, unlike others who were shunted aside, he was not moved to make way for a Lib Dem. The job he was expected to fill, as Environment Secretary, went to a fellow Tory, Caroline Spelman.

The likely explanation is that Mr Herbert had given the fox hunting fraternity a cast iron promise that an incoming Conservative government must get straight down to lifting the ban on hunting with dogs. There will be a free vote in Parliament on hunting, but it is not going to happen soon, and it is by no means certain that it will go the way the "Barbour brigade" want it to. Shunting Mr Herbert down one step on the ministerial ladder spares him the pain of having to break a promise.

But Tim Bonner, of the Countryside Alliance, is far from downcast. "People are very stoical about it," he said. "The hunts have lived through all these years under a hostile Labour government. They can manage for another year or two."

Art of surprise

Another surprisingly under-promoted former shadow minister is Ed Vaizey, an old Oxford chum of Cameron, who scraped in as a junior minister in the smallest government department – a punishment, no doubt, for that embarrassing gaffe two months ago when he said on television that Samantha Cameron might be thinking of voting Labour. That sent Cameron spin-doctors round the lobby spreading their witty message that "Ed Vaizey does not know his arts from his elbow." Vaizey is minister for the arts.

Stroud may face a new calling

Whatever is the opposite of a Facebook friend, Philippa Stroud, who was Tory candidate in Sutton and Cheam at the election, has more of them than virtually anyone else in politics. A "sack Philippa Stroud" Facebook group attracted 5,209 members in a matter of days after The Observer disclosed that she belonged to an evangelical church which performs exorcisms on gays and lesbians. Her church also believes in helping the poor, and Mrs Stroud has a long record as a devoted social activist, so after she failed to win Sutton, the Works and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith decided he wanted her as his special adviser. Nothing is officially decided yet. They are weighing up whether the experience she will bring to the job is worth the outcry.

Abbott already earns a good crust

Diane Abbott will add diversity to the field of candidates for the Labour leadership election in many different ways. Not only will she be the only candidate with a child at private school, she will be the one with the least to gain financially.

The four lead candidates all saw their income halved this month, and will have to adjust to life on an MP's salary of £64,700. But whoever wins the leadership election will draw a salary of £138,000. That would be a big hike for the average MP, but less so for Ms Abbott, whose many television appearances and other commitments take her income comfortably over £110,000.