Leicestershire MP set to chair Prime Minister’s new policy board

By Luke Pawley

The fallout from the high-profile resignations of Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain could see a Leicestershire MP land a new role as part of a Downing Street reshuffle.

According to the Sunday Times, Harborough, Oadby and Wigston MP Neil O’Brien is to chair a new policy board being established by Boris Johnson as an ‘attempt to get his premiership back on track’.

The move will see O’Brien work closely with Downing Street and fellow backbench MPs on policy and Conservatives hope that the new board will appeal to working-class voters in the north.

O’Brien was a special adviser to former Chancellor George Osborne and was instrumental in devising ‘northern powerhouse’ policies that Osborne made a top priority.

After eight years in senior positions with leading think tanks, O’Brien co-founded the think tank Onward with Theresa May’s former adviser Will Tanner in 2018. The duo are highly thought of in centre-right political circles and Tanner feels that O’Brien is the right man to work with Johnson on policy.

“Neil is steeped in detailed policy debates, he has a very deep working knowledge of economic, social and foreign policy,” Tanner said. “He is incredibly adept at navigating some of these complex debates.

“He’s also a very professional, thorough, rational and logical person. He’s not someone who’s particularly ideological or dogmatic. He’s willing to look at the evidence, form a view and then campaign for it.”

O’Brien won his Harborough, Oadby and Wigston seat with a majority of 12,429 in the 2017 General Election and Tanner believes his new role can actually make him a better constituency MP.

Tanner said Neil can offer ‘sound advice’ and ‘good political judgement’ to Number 10 during the pandemic and the recovery phase, adding: “The most important thing is that Number 10 has focused people, like Neil, coming up with serious policy ideas that are going to tackle some of the country’s long-term problems.

“Neil has balanced his role as a local MP with his role as a Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) in the government, alongside his responsibilities at Onward as a member of the advisory board,” he said.

Tanner added: “It seems to me he’s eminently capable of balancing multiple roles at once and, actually, I would make a strong case that Neil’s policy work actually improves his ability to speak to local issues and represent local people.

“A lot of these issues (that Neil works on) are of material interest to local constituents so he will probably be a better MP for focusing on these issues.”

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