David Cameron yesterday moved to build bridges with restive Tory backbenchers, bringing in Energy Minister John Hayes to act as his link man to the parliamentary party in a surprise mini-reshuffle.
The appointment of Mr Hayes – a robust rightwinger – as the Prime Minister’s senior parliamentary adviser is likely to be welcomed by Conservative MPs unhappy at the direction the Government has been taking. His departure from the Department for Energy and Climate Change (Decc), where he has openly clashed with Lib Dem Secretary of State Ed Davey, will also ease one source of tension within the coalition.
His role at Decc goes to the experienced Tory Michael Fallon who will take on the energy brief alongside his existing responsibilities as Business Minister in Vince Cable’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
A source said his appointment would give energy “a stronger business focus”, while insiders dismissed suggestions that it signalled a shift in the Conservative approach to wind farms, on which Mr Hayes is a noted sceptic.
It is understood that Mr Cameron wants the ebullient Mr Hayes to play the “greybeard” role previously undertaken by Mr Fallon, as a senior, respected and trusted link between the parliamentary party and Number 10.
The move was being presented as a promotion for Mr Hayes, who will be at the heart of the No 10 machine and will attend the Prime Minister’s daily 8.30am and 4pm meetings.
It will be seen by Westminster watchers as an attempt to steady nerves among Tory backbenchers spooked by poor poll ratings and the sluggish economic recovery.
Tory insiders admit that there has been a gap in that side of operations since Mr Fallon was moved from deputy chairman of the party last year.
Shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint condemned Mr Cameron for choosing to appoint a “part-time energy minister”. She said: “David Cameron appears to think that keeping tabs on his unruly Tory backbenchers is more important than the country’s energy policy.”