As Financial Secretary to the Treasury he has been 'Mr Privatisation', overseeing both the burgeoning market testing of civil service jobs and the drive to get more private finance into public projects in the National Health Service and elsewhere. He also disposed of assets that included the final pounds 5bn-worth of British Telecom shares.
On social issues he is firmly on the party's left - Julian Critchley, the Heathite 'One Nation' Tory MP for Aldershot once described him as 'excessively moderate'.
He entered Parliament in the same year as John Major, but, at the age of 27, as its youngest MP. He acquired an early reputation as a rebel and a protege of Peter Walker, the former Secretary of State for Wales, whom he knew both politically and from his own business base in Worcester.
Never 'Margaret Thatcher's favourite politician', a spell as Mr Walker's Parliamentary Private Secretary was followed in 1987 by three years in the whips' office.
That led to the junior's post at the Department of Health ahead of the last election. There his mixture of intellectual clout and fluency in argument, combined with a relaxed television style, soon made him the department's preferred choice ahead of his bosses - William Waldegrave, the Secretary of State for Health, and Virginia Bottomley, then the Minister of State - as the public defender of the Government's NHS changes in the run-up to the general election.
At the Treasury both before and after the exchange rate mechanism debacle, he became a Newsnight regular. He shares a string of views - pro-Europe, pro-ERM and pro-welfare state - with Kenneth Clarke.
Despite being contemptuous of monetarism in its heyday, Mr Dorrell is neither a financial soft touch nor an old- fashioned corporatist, despite views whose roots run back to Macmillan and Butler, and despite being the first minister in a political generation to address a TUC meeting earlier this year.