And he’s back in the room…

Oliver Dowden’s progress around the fringes of the Cabinet continues. This time he’s Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

A composite image of Conservative MP Oliver Dowden, wearing a surgical mask and floating against a virtual reality background
Oliver Dowden floating in some kind of dimensionless alternate reality

The new Prime Minister’s cabinet is coming together. Oliver Dowden has moved sideways. Bringing his sequence up to date: Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office (9 January 2018 – 24 July 2019), Paymaster General and Minister for the Cabinet Office (24 July 2019 – 13 February 2020), Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (13 February 2020 – 15 September 2021), Minister without Portfolio and Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party (15 September 2021 – 24 June 2022), Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (25 October 2022-)

So far the only full ministerial role on the list is the Culture job – a position created by John Major in 1992 and expanded along the way to accommodate media, sport, the Olympics, the amorphous ‘digital’ and, more recently, the Culture Wars. It was in this role that Dowden was first asked to take on woke street names and unisex toilets (our Culture Wars coverage is here). Also when he took up the cause of the British Museum and the stolen artefacts.

So now our MP is Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. It’s a sinecure. One of the roles used to accommodate ministers a leader might need later. To be honest we’re a bit disappointed. We thought Dowden was due a bigger role in a Sunak Cabinet – he was among the first MPs to come out in support of the new PM and he bust a gut campaigning for him the first time round.

But, because the role has no particular function, its holder can choose to focus on whatever they want – provided the boss is happy. A civil servant looks after the Duchy’s enormous property portfolio these days, so Dowden will be able to take up any cause he fancies. We’ll be interested to see if he returns to the fight to keep the stolen Benin Bronzes in London.

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