Patrick McLoughlin was handed the role of secretary of state for transport in this week’s cabinet reshuffle. Will he last longer in the job than his short-lived predecessor, Justine Greening?

As Patrick McLoughlin swots up on his new role as secretary of state for transport, there are plenty of people that he can call upon for advice. There are currently 23 people alive who have previously held the job (and six of them have done so in the past six years). A fresh pair of eyes can help reinvigorate a policy area, but the change of personnel at the Department for Transport has been far too frequent. Since Alistair Darling left in May 2006, the average dwell time for a transport secretary has been 1.05 years. That’s less than the average tenure for an English football league manager – 1.4 years!

Transport has suffered from being too far down the pecking order. It’s a staging post for those on the way up and those on the way down. In opposition, David Cameron ridiculed Labour’s ministerial merry-go-round, but he has appointed three transport secretaries in 28 months. The prime minister has recognised the merits of taking a long term view of transport infrastructure, but that hasn’t yet extended to the politicians tasked with overseeing their delivery.

Greening’s departure is clearly linked to a desire to prepare the ground for a new policy on Heathrow’s third runway. Her successor, Patrick McLoughlin, is apparently afraid of flying, but the former chief whip is expected to be fearless in getting his colleagues behind a new aviation policy, and perhaps HS2 as well.

If he does a good job, expect him to take off soon.


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