Nick Boles is a good bet for a fast-track promotion if the Conservative Party wins the general election. Although he would be a new MP if he wins the normally safe Tory seat of Grantham and Rutland, he would already be on the inside track of a David Cameron government.
The founding director of Policy Exchange, David Cameron's favourite think tank, he now runs the Implementation Unit, quietly drawing up the Tories' plans for government with Francis Maude, a Shadow Cabinet minister.
Boles, aged 44, could have had a much higher profile by now had fate not intervened. A member of the Camerons' "Notting Hill set", he was the front-runner to become the Tory candidate for last year's London Mayoral election, but he had to withdraw after suffering from cancer in 2007. He is full of praise for the NHS and has no truck with right-wing Tories calling for radical reform.
He was able to tell his selection meeting in Grantham later that year that he had made a full recovery from Hodgkin's lymphoma. He also volunteered the fact that he is gay – a rare moment of political candidness (in marked contrast, for example, to Zac Goldsmith, who didn't tell his local Tories in Richmond Park that he was a non-domicile for tax purposes, or Elizabeth Truss, who didn't mention her affair with a Tory MP when selected in South West Norfolk).
Boles's revelation was received without fuss and hasn't been mentioned since. Although seen as a metropolitan figure, he has slotted comfortably into his muddy-boots constituency, currently held by Quentin Davies, a Tory MP who defected to Labour.
A confident media performer, Boles undoubtedly has the potential to reach the Cabinet. With a high turnover of Tory MPs inevitable at the election, party insiders say he could even make his maiden Commons speech from the Dispatch Box as a minister. In 1945, that was done by another rising star – Harold Wilson.
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