The political life is a somewhat harsh one. One moment you can be at the top of the tree and the next you are almost nowhere. If you lose your ministerial job then suddenly your views don’t count and your successor’s ears are the ones into which everyone seeks to whisper.
I always used to try to spare a thought for the loser in reshuffles and government changes. Partly because it is just common decency to drop a line or make a phone call to those who have lost out (quite often through no fault of their own) but also through informed self-interest (the RSPB’s self-interest, not my own).
Those who lose out in one aspect of the merry-go-round of public life rarely disappear from view completely – some make comebacks in politics and many are influential in other areas of public life for years to come. Maintaining good relations with one’s contacts is a wise investment (and quite a small investment which may pay handsomely).
And so I hope that my NGO colleagues have not forgotten Caroline Spelman who was a much-better-than-average Secretary of State at Defra. I’ve met a couple of people recently, a student and a journalist, who have spoken to Ms Spelman and I hope conservati0n NGOs are doing the same.
We are at the midpoint of this Coalition government and there must be a very good chance that there will be a government of a different hue after the next, rather distant, general election (brought closer, I personally hope, by a Labour victory in the constituency of Corby and east Northants in next week’s by-election). In fact, the betting, at the moment, suggests Labour will win the most seats and are just favourites to win an overall majority (a lot can change, obviously, but I am just making the point that it’s not in any way unimaginable).
Me Spelman would be a very strong ally from the Opposition backbenches for asking difficult questions of the next Labour government. Her knowledge is great, her commitment is great and her reputation will be untarnished by the events of the rest of this government (whatever they may be).
I’d be very surprised if the Wildlife Trusts weren’t chatting up Ms Spelman and I would hope that the rest of the nature conservation movement shows their appreciation too, and ensures that Ms Spelman is a strong spokesperson for nature for many years to come.