Chris Grayling is in the news again. This weekend his £13.8m contract with Seaborne Freight, the “start-up” ferry company without any ships, collapsed after the Irish company that was backing the deal pulled out. Labour has once again called for him to be sacked, with an urgent question set for this afternoon.
You might wonder why Grayling, who since 2016 has presided over the Southern Rail fiasco, the Virgin Trains East Coast bailout, the chaotic train timetable change, the botched traffic jam in Dover, the Gatwick drone farce and now the “no ships” ferry contract, is still in his job.
The reason is that being in the Cabinet has more to do with loyalty than mastering your brief. May appointed Grayling to manage her leadership campaign after David Cameron quit, and rewarded him with the Transport Secretary job. Since then he’s duly gone out to bat for her Chequers proposals and her Brexit deal. When Boris Johnson, David Davis and then Dominic Raab resigned, the Prime Minister could point to Grayling and Liam Fox as prominent Leave supporters who still commanded her confidence.
He’s hardly the first cabinet minister who appears to be doing spectacularly badly as far as anyone on the outside is concerned, but whose position in the government is rock-solid. As Grayling himself might say: “Don’t blame me, blame the system.”