A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it line from the Sunday Times at the weekend: ‘Tom Watson, the Cabinet Office minister wrongly accused of involvement in the Damian McBride smear e-mails, will return to the back benches. He has told friends he is exhausted by government and wants to see more of his two children.’ I’ve got no inside track on that story (not for lack of trying, btw); but when you look at recent blog entries and tweets, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising. Even though he got his apology, it’s clear the experience of this Easter wasn’t pleasant. (Plus, being realistic, the Party may prefer him to be spending his time planning for the forthcoming general election.)
Around Easter, I had several conversations with people, all of us concerned at the possible loss of Tom as Minister for e-government / Digital Engagement. It’s been such a wonderful period, having someone in that position who deeply, personally understands it – particularly after two anonymous predecessors, Pat McFadden and Gillian Merron. (Yeah, exactly.)
If true, and I stress if, it would seem to put a slightly different light on the appointment of Andrew Stott as Director of Digital Engagement. With a new Minister arriving at the Cabinet Office front door, with (in all likelihood) little background knowledge, it’ll be up to his/her right hand man to drive the Power Of Information agenda forward. The reshuffle is expected shortly after the European elections on 4 June; Stott starts his new job (formally) on 2 June. Two fresh faces in the same fortnight would not be ideal.
PS: Is that really Tom’s middle name? (not safe for work)