The job of Leader of the House of Commons – not a full Cabinet ministry, but a post that nonetheless comes with attendance rights – has traditionally been treated by Prime Ministers as a means of easing ministers out of frontline politics.
But in a minority parliament where control of the Commons agenda is no longer guaranteed to be the sole preserve of the government, the job of managing the government’s parliamentary timetable has taken on a new importance.
The appointment of Jacob Rees-Mogg, the former chairman of the European Research Group and student of arcane parliamentary process, suggests that Johnson’s Downing Street will take a more confrontational approach to both backbench rebels and John Bercow.
Without keeping control of the order paper – or, indeed, limiting opportunities for others to take control – the chances of a no-deal Brexit somehow squeaking through the Commons will shrink from slim to nil. Rees-Mogg was among the first to raise suspending Parliament as a means of forcing no-deal through.
His appointment is above anything else a sign that Johnson’s government will seek to minimise its risk of being bound or defeated by the Commons on its Brexit policy – and that said policy is likely to be an endorsement of no deal.
It also seems that Rees-Mogg will be among those dispatched to communicate that policy over the airwaves, as his predecessor Andrea Leadsom did for Theresa May: he was the designated minister working the broadcast round on the night Johnson appointed his Cabinet. Whether it is electorally wise to have a figure so irredeemably associated with the harder end of the Brexit movement as one of the public faces of the government is another question entirely, however.