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The Shapps of things to come: what new job could Grant be handed next?

The new defence secretary’s extraordinary adaptability means he could have even more roles to play in Sunak’s ailing government...

With Larry the Downing Street cat approaching his retirement, who better to fill the position...? Photo: Getty/The New European

OK, so we did the collapsing school buildings thing last week and, annoyingly, that was still pretty much the biggest story THIS week as well. But just when it looked like I’d have to come up with a whole new set of jokes about “RAAC and ruin” or “British schools; now available in soluble form”, the two main parties came through with a couple of frontbench reshuffles.

In Labour’s case it was a pretty thorough and calm one, but there was a rather scrappier effort (occasioned by the resignation of Ben “The Sane One” Wallace from the defence gig) on the part of the “ruling” Conservatives.

So let us cast a wearily satirical eye over the government’s reshuffle in particular, in what I guarantee will be one of the VERY few articles on this topic not to feature either of the words “deckchairs” or “Titanic”. (Except I just DID use them. Arse.)

The only appointment to attract much comment was of course the unexpected, and yet somehow inevitable, replacement of the aforementioned Wallace at the MoD by the minister formerly known as Michael Green, Sebastian Fox, Corinne Stockheath (I’d love to have been at the sales conference where he tried to pull THAT one off) and the character Robert Webb does that we’re all getting a bit sick of now, Grant “Mis” Happs.

Reaction to Shapps’s appointment as defence secretary ranged from some commentators casting doubt upon his suitability for the job, to other commentators frantically Googling his resumé to make sure he hadn’t done defence already.

It is, in fact, hard to keep up with ministerial appointments in general these days, given the desperation with which our moribund, decaying administration clutches at anything that might give the appearance of Doing Something (and the micrometer-thin shallowness of the available “talent pool”). It’s worth pointing out, after all, that we are on our FIFTH prime minister in seven years. There’s no joke there, it’s just worth pointing it out. But remember, kids! Proportional representation leads to flimsy coalitions, short-term administrations, constant elections and the entrance into the mainstream of dangerous fringe ideas! And that’s why we CAN’T HAVE IT.

Still, given that it’s at least another 12 months until the election (unless there’s an outbreak of sanity in British politics, and I think we’ve all long since given up on that idea) it seems pretty unlikely that there won’t be at least one more cabinet reshuffle between now and then.

With this in mind, here are some more jobs that Grant Shapps might end up doing…

Shapps not only has a well-documented background in selling online get-rich-quick schemes (or rather, Messrs Green & Fox and Ms Stockheath do) but as recently as 2006, when already an MP, he was marketing a self-help book called Stinking Rich 3, so in many respects it’s astonishing this obvious financial genius HASN’T yet been asked to put his considerable acumen to work in service of the UK economy.

Unless of course those people who subscribed to his schemes and bought his book DIDN’T all become immensely wealthy, and I’m sure we would have heard by now if that were the case…

OK, technically Grant has been home secretary already, but it was only for six days in the dying convulsions of Liz Truss’s tenure as PM last autumn, so that doesn’t count.

Indeed the general consensus of Tory opinion seems now to be that the whole of the Truss Blip no longer counts and can be safely deleted from history (not least Truss herself, who is currently flogging a finger-wagging “we’re all off to hell in a handcart” book entitled Ten Years to Save the West when what she should REALLY be doing is bottling and marketing her own lack of self-awareness. She’d make a fortune.

The odds on this are looking better by the day, with reports that, for the third time in 18 months, letters of no confidence in the prime minister (still Rishi Sunak, in case you’re getting a bit lost) have started to land on the 1922 Committee’s doormat. (And while we’re here; a moment’s sympathy for Sir Graham Brady; it must take a lot of the fun out of being The Power Behind the Throne if you’re constantly being hauled out in FRONT of the throne in order to kick people off it.)

But why Grant Shapps? Well, why NOT Grant Shapps (this seems to have been the rationale behind all his previous appointments), especially when you consider that the only obvious alternatives are Suella “I Have a Dream” Braverman and the man whose whole life is a battle to thwart the curse of nominative determinism, James “Cleverly”?

With rumours abounding that Larry is to be retired (and that he was a frankly useless mouser to begin with), I’m sure Shapps would volunteer his services. I could be mistaken, but I seem to recall George Galloway has a costume he can borrow.

The press are in a lather
Hear them froth and rave
’Cos Prince Harry wore his shirt sleeves
To visit grandma’s grave.

Where was his jacket? And his tie?
Such brazen disrespect
Er guys, it’s 33 degrees
What did you expect?

Remember as you fulminate
And call him nasty names
He’s GINGER; we’re just lucky
He did not burst into flames.

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