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26 July 2012

Warsi is cleared but her future remains uncertain

Cameron refuses to guarantee that Warsi will remain Conservative co-chairman.

By George Eaton

To the undoubted dismay of her many enemies, Sayeeda Warsi has been cleared of any wrongdoing over her expenses by the Lords Commissioner for Standards. The Conservative co-chairman was alleged to have billed the taxpayer while staying rent-free with Tory official Naweed Khan.

In response, David Cameron has stated that Warsi will lead “a big summer of campaigning” ahead of this November’s police commissioner elections, but this still leaves him with the option of moving her in a September reshuffle. The PM has faced persistent calls to replace her with Michael Fallon, the Tories’ deputy chairman and attack-dog-in-chief, or housing minister Grant Shapps, both viewed as superior media performers. ConservativeHome editor Tim Montgomerie, for instance, has written:

Cameron also needs to reinvigorate his team. He should begin with getting a half decent Party Chairman. In tough times like these you’d normally see the Chairman all over the TV, defending the leader and lambasting Labour. Where’s Sayeeda Warsi? She’s been completely invisible. I asked CCHQ where she was. Is she ill? Is she out of the country? No, she’s preparing for party conference which is still three months away. Pathetic. She needs to be replaced as soon as possible.

If, as seems likely, Warsi is replaced as chairman, the smart money is on her becoming International Development Secretary, a job that would allow her to utilise her international contacts, if not improve her relations with the grassroots (most of whom would like to see development spending slashed).

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