Cabinet audit: What does the appointment of Grant Shapps as Transport Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for Transport.

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In Westminster, Grant Shapps’ name (or many names – his business pseudonyms landed him in trouble back in 2015) is usually a punchline. His false denial that he had a second job as an MP, his “get rich quick scheme” using the name “Michael Green”, and a story about changes to his Wikipedia page (though it transpired there was no evidence he was behind them) have all made him a figure of fun in UK politics.

However, it’s unlikely he could do much worse in the role of Transport Secretary than his notoriously incompetent predecessor, Chris Grayling. And Shapp is now that rare thing – a former Remainer running a department that would be severely tested by a no-deal Brexit. This suggests a level of trust from Johnson – whose leadership campaign benefited from Shapps’ spreadsheeting of MPs and their votes – but it could later harm Shapps.

Notably, the new Transport Secretary has long been an advocate of Heathrow expansion – perhaps signalling where Johnson now stands on a third runway, which would heavily impact on his Uxbridge & South Ruislip constituency. Previously, Johnson has opposed the expansion then conveniently missed a Commons vote on the issue by flying off to Afghanistan as foreign secretary. 

Shapps has also consistently voted in favour of High Speed 2, and is a supporter of infrastructure projects in general, as chair of the British Infrastructure Group of MPs.

Anoosh Chakelian is the New Statesman’s Britain editor.

She co-hosts the New Statesman podcast, discussing the latest in UK politics.

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