I dont believe Bottomley will let Major step down at the next election on risk of losing his seatThe Blair Years
The ashen-faced look on Sir Edward Heath's face as his near-16,000 vote majority was overturned to become a near-6,000 vote Labour majority in Old Bexley and Sidcup, bringing an end to the former Prime Minister's 47-year long tenure as an MP and 5-year period as Father of the House, just about summed up the mood of the Conservative Party on election night in 1997. Hundreds of Tories, whether they were relative newbies or respected former Prime Ministers, could not hold back the Labour tidal wave that swept across the electoral map of Great Britain on 1st May and the party was crippled to unimaginably low numbers. Apart from the seats of William Hague, Norman Fowler and John Major, the Conservatives were now a party of the South East of England. The 11 Liberal Democrats, 3 Scottish Nationalists and 2 Welsh nationalists were the only others to hold out against Labour's sweep. Northern Ireland's unique party system boosted the opposition's numbers to 55 in the new Parliament.
Tony Blair's jubilant arrival in Downing Street on 2nd May was immediately followed by the first significant task of governing - forming a Cabinet. The Shadow Cabinet was transferred almost exactly into the Cabinet, with key appointments being made such as John Prescott as Deputy Prime Minister, Gordon Brown as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Robin Cook as Foreign Secretary and Jack Straw as Home Secretary. The new government set to work with a swift pace, Gordon Brown unexpectedly announcing on 6th May that the Bank of England would be given operational independence over monetary policy and Blair himself introducing the Bill to hold the referenda on devolution in Scotland and Wales in September 1997. Just over a month after entering office, the Labour government had the United Kingdom sign up to the Social Chapter of the Maastricht Treaty that had contributed to the previous Tory government enduring almighty internal rows that helped seal its destruction in the election.
While the Blair government set to work, what remained of the Conservative Party set about electing a successor to John Major to take on the unenviable task of Leader of the Opposition to a totally dominant government. With Major out of the running for obvious reasons, there just 20 possible contenders and only two stepped forward. With the State Opening of Parliament out of the way on 14th May, William Hague (the Wales Secretary in Major's government) and Virginia Bottomley (the National Heritage Secretary in Major's government) announced their candidacies for the leadership. The rump of 21 MPs voted on 22nd May for their new leader and, in a result that was both a surprise and unsurprising, Virginia Bottomley won out to become the second female leader of her party thanks to John Major's casting vote. Major, as the former leader, had sought to keep his vote private, but the public declarations of his 20 colleagues - splitting evenly between the two candidates - unmasked Major as the man who had made Bottomley his successor.
Bottomley had only 20 other MPs from, and was determined to leave at least a small number of MPs on the backbenches out of the Shadow Cabinet to ensure her leadership could be held to account. Bringing in a handful of Peers and a giving a couple of members multiple portfolios, Bottomley unveiled her Shadow Cabinet on 24th May...
Leader of the Opposition
Leader of the Conservative Party
Virginia Bottomley MP Shadow Deputy Prime Minister
Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions
Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office
Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Norman Fowler MP Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Nicholas Soames MP Shadow Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain
Shadow Attorney General of England and Wales
Nick Hawkins MP Shadow Leader of the House of Commons Julian Lewis MP Shadow Leader of the House of Lords
Chairman of the Conservative Party
The Lord Baker of Dorking Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Philip Hammond MP Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs John Major MP Shadow Secretary of State for the Home Department William Hague MP Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Richard Ottaway MP Shadow Secretary of State for Health Francis Maude MP Shadow Secretary of State for Defence Richard Benyon MP Shadow Secretary of State for Social Security Peter Ainsworth MP Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Employment Cheryl Gillan MP Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Ian Taylor MP Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport The Lord Ryder of Wensum Shadow Secretary of State for International Development Dominic Grieve MP Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland
Shadow Secretary of State for Wales
Michael Mates MP Opposition Chief Whip Paul Beresford MP Opposition Chief Whip in the House of Lords The Lord Strathclyde
The four MPs that Bottomley had left on the backbenches were balanced 50-50 between those who had supported her in the leadership election and those who had supported William Hague. The 'loyalist' backbenchers were Geoffrey Johnson Smith and Charles Wardle, and the others were Desmond Swayne and Christopher Chope.