It’s fair to say that Graham Stuart is the very definition of a loyalist.
Since the Carlisle-born, former Cambridge City Councillor was elected to the Yorkshire constituency of Beverley and Holderness in 2005, he has only rebelled 31 times out of the 2,926 votes he’s attended. The last time he rebelled was on 15 July 2015 – just short of a year before Theresa May became Prime Minister. It was around the time he stopped being Chair of the Education Select Committee and was unsuccessful in his attempt to become Chair of the Culture, Media & Sport Committee.
Clearly he felt his loyalty would be rewarded with a ministerial position. It did happen, but he had to wait until January 2018. That’s when he became Minister for Investment in the Department for International Trade. Later on he became the Minister for Exports.
The country and his constituency voted for Brexit in 2016 (he wanted to remain by the way), so positions like those were incredibly important. It was essential to make sure the United Kingdom continued to have high levels of trade and quality working partnerships with businesses and other countries.
Quite why he was thought to be suitable for those roles is a good question. Several years on a committee related to education, an interest in culture and sport, constituency activities related to healthcare. Absolutely nothing up to that point indicating a future in international trade or foreign affairs. Either those who chose him didn’t care about knowledge and experience, or they wanted to reward unending loyalty with something important – perhaps both.
Clearly he wasn’t up to the job though as there was no sign of progression or achievement and he was sacked in 2021. Most recently he received the much lower ranked job of Trade Envoy to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.
The long and winding road to a goodbye for Boris
As you’ll all know by now, Boris Johnson has announced he is stepping down as both Tory leader and Prime Minister. He will only stay on until a new Tory leader is appointed. It could be weeks, but it could be months.
Time and time again, Johnson has proved himself unfit for public office – certainly not fit for the role of Prime Minister. Nevertheless, Graham Stuart has been a steadfast supporter. On multiple occasions, he’s proven himself to be the cheerleader in chief.
When Johnson resigned, Stuart was strangely silent initially. hen we got this:
I am sorry to see the Prime Minister resign today but he has done the right thing.
He can be proud of what he has achieved during the last three years. He won an 80 seat majority for his positive vision of Britain, he got Brexit done and he has ensured that our country has led the way in supporting Ukraine with both humanitarian and military aid during its ongoing conflict with Russia.
From a personal perspective, I have been proud to serve during his Premiership. As Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for International Trade I worked with him to deliver on his ambition to make us Global Britain following our departure from the European Union, and I enjoy continuing that work in my current role as a Trade Envoy to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
Our great country faces a lot of challenges and a lot of opportunities too, including delivering on our pledge to be Net Zero by 2050 and Levelling Up the whole of the United Kingdom. I will continue to work hard on behalf of my constituents in Beverley and Holderness to address these challenges and I will support the next leader of the Conservative Party in their work to ensure that Britain continues to thrive.
This statement ignores he fact that the majority has shrunk and Johnson campaigned for Brexit when Stuart was against it. It’s supportive of Boris whilst also saying it was the right thing for him to go. The last sentence also shows he will be blindly loyal to whoever succeeds him and shows little focus on the views and needs of his constituents.
Off to the Foreign Office
Due to the unprecedented amount of resignations, Johnson needed emergency replacements. It was the only way to keep the government running. How long these appointments last are a good question. The eventual new Tory leader could decide to significantly separate from Johnson’s tenure and make widespread changes. On the other hand, they could opt for continuity in at least some cases and keep some of them around.
Some have returned because they have the knowledge that Johnson will be leaving and they don’t want the day to day running of government to fail. However, many have been highly critical, so they were never going to return. An example of this is Michael Gove, who was replaced by Greg Clark.
Johnson needed enough supporters in place to minimise division. When filling the junior spots, one of the people he turned to was Graham Stuart. He was appointed a Minister of State for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. Once again, a job with an overseas focus despite Stuart’s knowledge and experience.
Junior, but still important
Whilst being a Minister of State doesn’t make him a high ranking member of the cabinet, it is still an important role – particularly at this time. There are a number of issues going on in the world that need to be dealt with by capable hands. There’s the ongoing war in Ukraine, relations with Europe, an economic crisis in Sri Lanka, monitoring of the Covid-19 situation in every country and so much more. People’s lives depend on this Ministry’s work.
Graham Stuart is not the right man for this.
Either Stuart was picked because of his long record of blind loyalty to Johnson, or there was no-one else willing to be part of an interim government led by him that may only last a few weeks.
Graham Stuart has gained roles through unwavering support, rather than any particular passion for a subject or clear ability.
It will be interesting to see what the future brings.