A glimpse of the quirky new cabinet

Written by Owen Paterson: environment secretary on 5 September 2012 in Diary
Here are some of the things you didn't expect from our new cabinet members. 

After the revised cabinet was announced yesterday, we take a look at  the quirks of four MPs with new positions.

Before embarking upon a political career, the environment secretary earned a living in the animal skin tanning industry.  Paterson was the Managing Director of the Paterson family business British Leather Company.  He was also the president of the European Tanners’ Confederation between 1996 and 1998.

Paterson enjoys horse riding.  He and his wife Rose have cantered across Turkmenistan and more recently Mongolia, in imitation of Genghis Khan. During a Commons debate on fox-hunting, Paterson evoked the Nazis’ ban on the sport: “No one gained in Germany then; no one will gain now.” Only ‘honest, decent people’ hunted, he said.

Paterson is a renewable energies sceptic.  In 2008, he called wind farms in his Shropshire constituency “a massive waste of consumers’ money.” This May he urged the cabinet to abandon all energy subsidies and hasten shale-gas exploration: “one unexpected and potentially huge windfall.”

As shadow agriculture minister, he supported badger culling as a curb to bovine TB, despite revealing during the Commons debate that he had a “wonderful” orphaned badger as a childhood pet. 

However, James Cooper, Head of Government Affairs at the Woodland Trust, is positive about Paterson’s promotion: "He lists trees among his interests and, naturally, we welcome that.”

Jeremy Hunt: health secretary

In 2007, Jeremy Hunt signed an early day motion praising homeopathy.  Homeopathy is a form of medicine based on the principle that treating patients with a small douse of the source of their sickness is a cure. Professor Sir John Krebs, professor of zoology at Oxford University, says: “There is overwhelming evidence that homeopathic medicine is not effective. It would be a real blow for those who want medicine to be science-based if the secretary of state were to promote homeopathy because of his personal beliefs.”

When Danny Boyle disclosed his plans for the Olympic opening ceremony to the Government, Hunt thought that the ebullient NHS sequence was unnecessary.  He is one of the co-authors of the 2005 book Direct Democracy- Agenda for a New Model Party, which called for the ‘denationalisation’ of the NHS. 

Earlier this year, Hunt’s colleague Michael Gove revealed that Hunt is an enthusiastic dancer of the sensual South-American Lambada: “If you ever want anyone to liven up your party by cutting the rug with dash and distinction... then Jeremy is the man to invite.” Hunt has a sprung dance floor in his home.  His former dance teacher, Joseph Koniak, says: "Dance comes from the heart and that's one thing Jeremy has – a big heart. He gave it a lot of passion. He enjoyed it – it was an escape.”

Chris Grayling: justice secretary

Chris Grayling is the first justice secretary who was not previously a lawyer since the Archbishop of York in 1558. Prior to becoming an MP, he was a producer for the BBC, an editor for Channel 4 and a manager of television production companies.  

As Shadow Home Secretary, he said certain crime riddled streets in Britain are similar to the slums of cult TV show The Wire. He sparked anger again in 2010 when he was secretly recorded by the Observer suggesting Christian B&B owners have the right to ban gay couples from their premises. 

While reading History at Cambridge, Grayling was known as “Graything” by fellow students.   

Patrick McLoughlin: transport secretary

The former miner and new transport secretary revealed in a 2011 interview with Total Politics that he has an extreme fear of flying.  McLoughlin recalled how he confided in Cecil Parkinson when, as a new minister, he was put in charge of aviation and shipping:  “Cecil, I’ve got two problems with this. I’ve got the most landlocked constituency in the United Kingdom, and I’m afraid of flying.” “Excellent,” he said, “you’ll bring an open mind to the subject.”

Tags: Cabinet reshuffle, Chris Grayling, Jeremy Hunt, Naomi Zainali, Owen Paterson, Patrick mcloughlin

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