What is a Minister without Portfolio? Richard Holden appointed Tory party chairman in Cabinet reshuffle


Amid the news that David Cameron is returning to frontline politics as foreign secretary came another announcement that affects how the Conservative party is run.

Richard Holden has been chosen by Rishi Sunak to be the Tory chairman and succeeds Greg Hands in the role. Alongside the title, Mr Holden has been named Minister without Portfolio. This same honour has been bestowed upon Esther McVey who has reportedly been given rumoured extra responsibility as a ‘commonsense tsar’.

The Cabinet met for the first time with the new and returning faces on Tuesday. This also includes James Cleverley, who has succeeded Suella Braverman as home secretary after she was sacked. 

Mr Hands is still the minister of state in the Department for Business and Trade but what is the role that he is leaving behind?

What is a Minister without Portfolio?

The title is used to get someone into the Cabinet, who wouldn’t otherwise be there.

They aren’t in charge of a specific department of state but their responsibilities include contributing to Government policy and decision-making processes.

This title can also be used to allow the chairman of the party to attend, which is true of the case of North West Durham MP Richard Holden.

There is no requirement for a Minister without Portfolio position in Cabinet.

Who is Richard Holden?

Mr Holden has been an MP since 2019, becoming the first Tory to win the seat of North West Durham in the constituency’s history. His majority of 1,144 could, however, make him vulnerable to a Labour campaign next year - or whenever the next election is. 

Under his ally Mr Sunak, he was made parliamentary under secretary of state for roads and local transport last year but relinquished the role this week for the more senior position.

He had previously been an advisor to Gavin Williamson and to Boris Johnson.

The 38-year-old made headlines in 2021 when he was fined £100 for dropping a cigarette butt, having previously led a campaign against littering.


Who is Esther McVey and what is a commonsense czar?

A bigger name is Esther McVey, who was work and pensions secretary in 2018 before standing for party leadership a year later.

She had previously been a TV presenter for the Heaven and Earth Show as well as GMTV before embarking on politics, becoming MP for Wirral West in 2010.

She is married to another Tory MP, Philip Davies, and the pair present a GB News programme which came under fire from Ofcom when the regulator ruled the couple were not free from bias when interviewing Jeremy Hunt as chancellor.

McVey is tipped to leave her GB News role behind as she becomes minister without portfolio. The sacking of Braverman was considered a blow to supporters of the right of the Tories. However, with McVey's appointment, as a described "straight-talking Northerner", concerns about a shift away from the right might be dispelled.

The government has not said any more, but The Sun reported that it had been briefed by the government that her role would be as a “commonsense tsar”, tasked with “tackling the scourge of wokery".

The Tory source added that McVey will be "leading the charge on the government's anti-woke agenda, streamlining as a minister attending the Cabinet".