Two decades on from Hezza, Francis Maude resurrects one of the largest offices in Whitehall history

The man they called Tarzan was a big guy. Maybe he needed a big office. Do his successors in the Coalition Government need one too?
  • @andymcsmith

When Michael Heseltine was Deputy Prime Minister 20 years ago, the size of his office became a Whitehall legend.

There has never been a minister since who took up so much floor space – until this month’s ministerial shuffle. Where there had previously been one minister of state, Oliver Letwin, working with the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, there are now two, after the rehabilitation of David Laws. There are also two junior ministers, Nick Hurd and Chloe Smith, and, uniquely, two Ministers without Portfolio, Grant Shapps and Kenneth Clarke.

So the room that once housed Michael Heseltine and that has served for many years as a meeting room, is now an office. Its proud occupant is Francis Maude.


Nameless minister spills the beans on being sacked

Today’s Spectator has a witty account by an unnamed government minister describing what it was like being sacked. Rumours suggested Nick Gibb, sacked from his job as an education minister. Mr Cameron told the Commons: “Let me pay tribute to him for his long-standing work on educational standards and his belief in true rigour in schools. He has seen many of his ideas put into practice…” Yes, Mr Cameron, people say he was good at his job. But then, why sack him?


Thanks Norman, what joy it is to buy a train ticket

“Passengers continue to enjoy widespread and easy access to the purchase of rail products,” says a written statement from the Transport minister, Norman Baker. It takes a minister to remind us of the fun that can be had buying a rail ticket.


A woman’s place is behind the fridge, and don’t forget it

An indignant email pings in from Godfrey Bloom, Ukip member of the European Parliament. He has been on local radio with Sarah Veale of the TUC, who accused him of having said that “women should not go to work but should stay at home and clean behind the fridge”. Mr Bloom claims this is “simply a lie” and Ms Veale should apologise.

What he actually said, shortly after he was elected MEP for Yorkshire and Humberside in 2004, was that he wanted to deal with women’s issues because “I just don’t think they clean behind the fridge enough.”

He added: “I am here to represent Yorkshire women who always have dinner on the table when you get home. I am going to promote men’s rights.” Not at all the thoughts of a man who thinks women belong in the home, cleaning fridges.