Well, politics can certainly be difficult to predict! I had not expected to be moving posts in government again after less than a year at the Ministry of Justice. But resignations before Christmas meant that the Prime Minister had to make changes to the government and so on Monday 8 January I was asked to go to Number 10.
The Ministry of Justice was a challenging brief but I enjoyed my time there. Part of me was sorry to leave, but the new role as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office takes me to the heart of government.
The Cabinet Office is responsible for the coordination of government business across departments. It services the Cabinet and the network of Cabinet committees through which much of government business is done. The Prime Minister has asked me to chair a number of committees and deputise for her when she is away from others where she would normally take the chair herself.
I have an overarching responsibility in government for constitutional affairs, including devolution, and for the implementation of government policy. Oh, and I shall also stand in at Prime Minister’s Questions on the rare occasions when she is unable to be there.
I feel excited and honoured by the appointment, and a little apprehensive too at the responsibilities that I have been asked to shoulder.
For those interested, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is an ancient title that nowadays is given to a senior Minster without specific departmental responsibilities. It is granted by The Queen in her capacity as Duke of Lancaster, the title heaving been held by the sovereign since Henry Bolingbroke became King Henry IV., and I had to go up to Sandringham to be sworn in by Her Majesty.
It's a feature of our constitutional system that Ministers are also Members of Parliament with individual constituencies. Not every democracy works like that. In the United States and the Netherlands, Ministers are not members of the legislature. In others, MPs are elected on regional or national party lists not single-member constituencies.
The Friday after my new appointment I was in Aylesbury hearing from constituents about problems affecting social care and the impact of the closure of RAF Halton. Our system loads more work onto Ministers, but it really does keep your feet on the ground!