The last red box

I VOLUNTEERED to get up with the boys this morning and give Carolyn a lie in. The courier has just arrived for the Sunday morning pick-up of my red box, although this time it returns to the department without any of the work inside having been looked at, let alone completed – not because I’m in a huff (I’m really not), but because I’m not authorised, as of Friday evening, to open it.

Years ago, during one of Tony Blair’s reshuffles, one minister was attending a conference, waiting to deliver the keynote speech. She was called on her mobile and told her services were no longer required. Shocked, she hung up and turned to her private secretary to tell him the news. The private secretary expressed the appropriate amount of sympathy, then took the speech notes from the ex-minister’s hands, informing her that, as a back bench MP, she was no longer authorised to speak on behalf of the government. The private secretary then delivered the speech instead. Brutal, eh?



Filed under Department for Transport, Government

13 responses to “The last red box

  1. At least no black bin bags involved!

    Now to see what the Sunday’s make of it all…

  2. Bedd Gelert

    Hmm.. It mentions in an earlier post that ‘you have the potential to go much higher in your party’.

    Is this really true ? Surely, if the last week has proved anything, it is that you need to be a ‘Grade A’ sh!t to really get on in politics.

    Neither Gordon Brown nor Peter Mandelson would, as they say Stateside, win ‘Miss Congeniality’..

    Being honest and hard-working and independent minded puts you on the same track as Paul Flynn, Austin Mitchell and, dare I say it, the Beast of Bolsover.

    Being successful these days means being, though I hate to stoop so low as to quote Richard Littlebrain – Malignant, malevolent & mendacious.

    Ability to back stab and step over the careers of your colleagues to get to the top.

    Mind you, there is always a career in football club management, which these days, despite the dodgy guys at Manchester City, the incompetents at Newcastle, the salubrious management at Chelski and the rampant egomaniacs at Man Utd, is now looking less of a nest of vipers than what is on offer at Westminster..

  3. John

    I don’t know how you found the time to do all the work of Transport Minister and an MP.
    My MP is always complaining she hasn’t got time to do this and she hasn’t got time to do that.
    And she is on the backbenches.

    I hope you made Carolyn breakfast in bed this morning.

  4. Anon.

    As a Conservative supporter I can’t help but feel that the Government has lost one of its few remaining credible voices. You have a sincerity that most of your Party sadly lacks and I think it’s terribly sad that people like you are being moved aside for the likes of Nick Brown and Peter Mandelson.

    All the best in the future. I hope that the expertise you’ve built up in the rail sector won’t go to waste.

  5. Civil Serpent

    Perhaps not quite your last Tom, as ministers are entitled to keep a red box when they leave office if they so wish.

    I’d take up that offer if I were you, and use the box for something utterly irreverent, like a lovely window box or some-such.

  6. John

    Re Civil Serpent
    Perhaps it would have been wiser to have kept the box- minus the papers.
    Could have fetched quite a few bob on Ebay.

    Alternatively, you could have left it on a train.

  7. Ted Harvey

    Tom I want to add my sincere sympathies on the disappointing news about your lose of the Ministerial post. I can’t see any underperformance or offence you can have caused from the Governments’ or the Party’s perspective to merit this. As you say, political life can just sometimes be brutal.

    A related ‘brutal’ point for me on the reshuffle is that the return of Mandelson is a disaster, an utter disaster that smacks once again of moving the deck chairs around. Much of the following I have said elsewhere but it bears repeating.

    Mandelson’s grinning (leering?) pompous and, well let’s just say oleaginous, personality oozed out all over the media screens on Friday.

    Gordon Brown bringing back Mandelson is a hugely negative own score, with the electorate reminded (and the week-end media making sure of it) of Lord Sleeze and Prince of Darkness.

    Brown has brought back a guy who celebrated in saying that Labour was ‘very comfortable about people getting filthy rich’ – just at the point of huge anger and anxiety among the voters over fat cats and market failure to deliver. And on a sad little note, a Labour Government enobles him as a Lord to get him into Cabinet; at least being a Lord will suit his persona.

    I suspect that the reality here is that what is crudely called the Blairtite wing of the Party cannot stand Brown, believes he has turned out as they predicted and that he seems to be out of favour with the electorate – but even these ‘Blairities’ believe that to change Leader again before the election is not on.

    Consequently they have carried out a subtle palace coup. The offer-not-to-be-refused is that Brown stays as a neutered Leader whilst the Old Guard ‘Blairities’ like Mandleson must be brought back.. and meantime we have Campbell and Blair back on board albeit off-stage.

    The final catalyst in this unfolding coup was the hamfisted (or great clunking fist?) handling of the ‘I want to spend more time with my family’ Ruth Kelly fiasco.

    If Mandelson’s return were all down to Gordon Brown it would anyway represent yet another sorry illustration of his faulted decision-making and lack of determination. First he ‘signals’ and signs that he is going one way and then he dithers, and then he comes up with a decision that is a bit of this and a bit of that.

    I appreciate that you cannot or would not agree with most of what I say, but I think it is at the very least a credible perspective.

  8. bstard

    Yeah. Loyalty is good. But there are limits.

  9. Mo Daniels

    Brutal but necessary, however, this little tale may make you feel a little better. A friend of mine worked in a constituency office of a former Scottish Executive Minister in Jack McConnell’s cabinet. The Ministerial box was not the distinguished red box with the Crown and Minister’s role, dieu et mon droit etc emblazoned on it in gold, but one of those generic light grey plastic mailer bags that you open by ripping the seal at the top, it was complimented with a ‘Banner’ brand sticky label with the office address on it, the ‘Avery’ brand was deemed too expensive. The emotional attachment to which I doubt was of the significance that you had with your box.

  10. dreamingspire

    I’m sorry to see you go. And I believe that DfT failed you, not you failing them.

  11. When someone has in charge of a Directorate for two years how can it let him down?

  12. Labour Chick

    Why has noone commented on the fact that you have hardly been supportive of the prime minister on this blog? Given recent events, why haven’t you come to his defence? Instead you’ve spent your time defending the likes of your pal David Cairns, who publicly called for a leadership contest!

    So come on, Tom, do you support Gordon or not? If not, it’s little wonder you’re out of the Cabinet.

  13. MorayBoy

    I’ve just been reading your blog and noticed your announcement on your main website (complete with image of p45).

    I just wanted to write a note to say that I think you’ve dealt with the way you were treated over the weekend with a great deal of humanity. Of course it’s tough to lose out on your place in Government and it’s worse when they announce it in the despicable way they did. you’ve acknowledged how disappointed you are but haven’t behaved as if it’s the end of the world like some other ministers have in the past.

    I imagine your dignified reaction stems from knowing how very few people ever get the opportunity to make a difference in the way you have. You can be proud of your time in Government and you can be proud about the manner in which you left it. Good man!

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