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13 February 2020updated 09 Sep 2021 4:15pm

Andrea Leadsom left government too quickly to make her mark

The sacked business secretary arrived at her department with a patchy record at environment and a strong one as leader of the house. She never had time to make her mark in her new role.

By Stephen Bush

The role of leader of the House of Commons has tended to serve as a political antechamber: a place that cabinet ministers on the downward slope occupy after reaching the heights of full cabinet rank but before being sent to the wilderness. (Chief secretary to the Treasury tends to have the opposite function.)

As leader of the house, Andrea Leadsom achieved the comparatively rare feat of strengthening her position in post, gaining respect across the house for her handling of allegations of bullying and sexual harassment. That rehabilitated her reputation, which took a battering during her tenure as environment secretary – though junior ministers in the department felt that the central difference between her and Michael Gove was that she had to contend with a controlling and powerful Downing Street, embodied by its combative chiefs of staff, Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, rather than it being a reflection on her abilities in the post. 

Taken together, however, it meant that she arrived at the business department having boosted her standing at Westminster but with question marks over her ability to run a big department. Because she has been sacked so quickly we still don’t really know whether or not she was a politician well-suited to the demands of Commons leader, or if given time she might have impressed at business as she did in a role traditionally regarded as a retirement home.

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