This article is from the December 2012 issue of Total Politics
Loyalty in politics could be viewed as a dying quality. Why quietly work behind the scenes doing the unheralded, unglamorous work for others? Party structures are looser and MPs are more rebellious. The three main leaders all reached the top of their parties five years after first reaching Parliament. They preach loyalty for those beneath them but barely had time to reciprocate the feeling while on the way up. David Cameron has a mixed reputation for loyalty. He has known his closest advisers for an incredibly long time and trusts them implicitly. At the same time, there is a yawning gap between him and much of his Parliamentary party. Even one of his most loyal MPs, Louise Mensch, crossed the Atlantic for a new life after a mere two-and-a-half years in the House of Commons.
Our cover star this month, Tessa Jowell, believes that a prime minister deserves loyalty. It was one characteristic which was evident throughout her political career. Jowell was at the heart of the New Labour project but managed to survive into the Gordon Brown era. Now, she has stepped down from frontline politics, but as she explains in her interview (p38), this is merely a period of “decompressing”. With experience in government and the Olympics, she offers a fascinating insight into how to keep a group of people, of diverse background and personality, working together towards a common good. Jowell never saw politics as an end in itself, but as a way of effecting change. If that meant appearing on Sky News in the early hours of the morning to offer Gordon Brown support when it looked likely he could be toppled, then so be it.
Then there are the plotters: the schemers whispering in corners and quietly canvassing opinion in tea rooms and corridors. Dan Hodges lifts the lid on his time plotting against a PM on p28. It is a slippery business of subterfuge and double bluffing. It’s also something those enemies of David Cameron don’t appear to be too good at. Dan offers some helpful advice…