Shall we fire this thing up again?

There’s an election coming. We can feel the electricity in the air.

A three-quarter-length portrait, taken in the light from a window in a long room at Windsor Castle in 2023 by photographer Hugo Burn and shows His Majesty King Charles III wearing the Royal Navy uniform of an Admiral of the Fleet and official medals and decorations. He leans on a small table, his sailor's cap and white gloves on the table.
This is not Oliver Dowden, it’s the King in a sailor’s uniform. That’ll be £8 Million.

We haven’t posted here for seven months. We took a break and meanwhile, you may have noticed, the world got even more dark and weird. But Rishi Sunak says his ‘working assumption’ is that we’ll have a general election in the second half of this year so the politics is about to get a bit more interesting (and then there’s the polling). Maybe it’s time to start blogging again.

So what’s our MP actually been up to?

In the intervening period, Oliver Dowden, who was appointed Deputy Prime Minister by Rishi Sunak after Dominic Raab resigned in April of last year (there was another bullying scandal. We know, it’s really hard to keep up). Dowden remains Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Secretary of State in the Cabinet Office and has continued to excel as a bagman, flitting from studio to studio, mopping up after everyone from Peter Bone to Boris Johnson to Suella Braverman (remember her?) to Michel Mone to the boss himself and picking up salient issues as they hit the inbox – strikes, Artificial Intelligence (for designing bioweapons and for getting rid of surplus civil servants) and Chinese takeovers of UK businesses, for instance. He’s got bit parts in the Covid Inquiry and in the Post Office scandal, of course (we could include definitely not covering up for a rapist in the Conservative Party, asking Netflix to tell everyone The Crown is made-up, casually snubbing the Greek Prime Minister and more-or-less constantly complaining about Gary Lineker but honestly this list is getting a bit long).

We don’t want to be too dismissive. Dowden did collide with a few big issues along the way – he addressed the UN about Ukraine, spoke for the government on the Gaza protests and called a Cobra meeting about the terror threat. The fact that Oliver Dowden actually ran the country for a few days during the Summer holidays may or may not fill you with dread.

Untouched by scandal

None of this is what you’d call inspiring is it? But this constant focus on the political nitty-gritty and selflessly stepping up to defend the indefensible when asked to has obviously served Dowden well. No detectable scandal (that 25 grand payment barely gets him into the top 50 MPs), no public shaming, he’s not been asked to leave via the back door of Number 10 once yet. Classic teflon.

The boss is back

A departure for the ages

It must be, er, bewildering (Upsetting? Galling?) for Oliver Dowden to see his first political boss David Cameron, who departed the scene like a thief in the night (humming) in 2016, actually re-entering government via the back door, though. In a just world Dowden would have eclipsed his sensei by now but, tragically, he finds himself down the table from the old Etonian again. It must be maddening, especially as Cameron didn’t even have to go to the trouble of getting elected this time – he just strolled into the House of Lords and picked up his ermine (and his £104,360 per year salary).

Perfectly normal

Head-and-shoulders portrait photograph of Azerbaijani leader Ilham Aliyev in an ornate frame. He's wearing a black suit, white shirt and dark blue tie. He sits against a flag and emblem of Azerbaijan

So, let’s get to that portrait of the King. Oliver Dowden has chosen a photograph of Charles III wearing the uniform of an Admiral of the Fleet, with the many medals and insignia he has earned in that role, taken in one of his castles. It’s A3-sized and comes in an oak frame1. If you represent a ‘public authority’ you can get one for nothing (you just have to send an email). What you’re required to do with it is not specified – although we assume you’re supposed to hang it on the wall in the lobby, like they do in Azerbaijan. The cost to tax-payers is expected to be £8 Million. And we’re all going to carry on acting like this is a perfectly normal thing for the government of a democracy to do in 2024.

YouGov MRP poll - chart with text that reads: Labour would win 120-seat majority if election were held tomorrow. Median seat count estimates in latest YouGov MRP, based on modelled responses from 14,110 British adults. Chart shows 385 seats for Labour and 202 seats for Conservative.
For a Tory MP this is what gets you updating your LinkedIn in January 2024

In our next post we’ll look at the recent polling, including last week’s allegedly hyper-accurate MRP poll, commissioned by Lord David Frost and paid for by a shadowy group calling itself The Conservative Britain Alliance (the Electoral Commission wants to know who they are), that’s put the fear of God into Tory MPs and triggered this week’s frenzied (and highly entertaining) festival of recrimination and panic in the corridors and meeting rooms of the House of Commons and CCHQ.


  1. Some people have raised concerns about the little camera at the top of the picture frame. We’re pretty sure you can just put a bit of tape or a Post-It Note over it, although we’re not sure if that’s actually allowed. ↩︎
  • As a Cabinet Office minister, Oliver Dowden remains responsible for the government’s 22-person propriety and ethics team – he’s this guy‘s boss. It’s still not clear what they actually do.
  • We’re urged to recognise Lord Cameron’s selfless devotion to duty. He’s promised not to collect his daily £342 House of Lords attendance allowance while collecting his £104,360 per year ministerial salary, for instance, and he’s had to give up the enormous sums he’s been earning as a consultant and adviser in the private sector. In every year since he resigned he’s claimed the allowance for former Prime Ministers – the Public Duty Costs Allowance (PDCA) – which runs to a maximum of £115,000 per year and it’s not known if he’ll continue to claim it now that he’s a minister. Meanwhile, the Serious Fraud Office hasn’t finished investigating the affairs of his former employer Greensill Capital, where Cameron’s salary was £720,000 per year (he was also given shares in the company and sold them just before it went bust for £3.3M)
  • At Radlett Wire we’re convinced that there’s some value in keeping an eye on the conduct of a local MP – especially in a constituency like ours that’s been dominated by one party since its creation forty years ago. It’s one of the worthwhile things that local blogs all over the country still do. We’ve grouped all the Dowden posts together with the tag #DowdenLog. You can use an RSS reader to subscribe to the blog or just to our gripping Oliver Dowden updates. If you follow Radlett Wire on Twitter/X, on Facebook and now in the Fediverse (search for @blog@radlettwire.co.uk on Mastodon or your favourite ActivtyPub service) we’ll also share every Dowden post there.

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