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ODowden is such a consummate Tory insider and fixer that it might seem almost paradoxical that he became the Boris Johnson-era prime minister to walk through the parapet and quit in the wake of recent government misfortunes.

More on the mark was the fact that Dowden, in his letter to Johnson resigning as co-chairman of the Conservative Party, insisted that poor local election results, capped by a disastrous double defeat in the by-elections on Thursday, made his position untenable.

“We cannot carry on as if nothing had happened. Someone has to take responsibility,’ Dowden wrote – and although he insisted it was him, others will see an implied finger of blame pointing at the Prime Minister instead.

Thus ends Dowden’s time at the firm, at least for now. But his decision to go for what many Tory colleagues will see as the honorable pick will leave him easily placed for a comeback if Johnson is deposed, which an operator as cunning as Dowden will surely achieve.

And few understand Tory domestic politics better than Dowden, whose time in the party long predates his election in 2015 as MP for Hertsmere in Hertfordshire, a super-safe seat he was chosen to fight the previous year, seeing competition from Rishi Sunak, among others.

Educated at a public school in Watford and then Cambridge, Dowden set aside a law degree to teach briefly in Japan before, apart from a stint in public relations, working largely for the Conservative Party, which arrived for the first times when Michael Howard was chef.

He was David Cameron’s deputy chief of staff when he was selected as a prospective MP and worked closely on party and government issues with Theresa May and, as party chairman since September this year last, Johnson.

Known almost universally to party colleagues as “Olive”, a legacy of an early typographical error, Dowden took less than three years in Parliament to secure his first junior cabinet post. Seen as unflappable and hardworking, he rose through the ranks of the Cabinet Office and Treasury before becoming Culture Secretary under Johnson in 2020.

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There, Dowden belied his superficial resemblance to an easily shocked, mildly liberal Church of England vicar to become an enthusiastic culture warrior, waging a “war on revival” against museums and other institutions that questioned the legacy of slavery or sought to remove statues.

It’s a role he’s extended to the more blatantly partisan post of party chairman, with a Twitter feed laden with government talking points – currently the campaign to persuade voters that the rail strikes are the fault of the government. Labour Party.

This combination of hard work, loyalty and ideological fervor made Dowden a beloved minister to Johnson. If he is now to be an opponent of the Prime Minister – and his resignation letter clearly expressed no loyalty – he could become an equally formidable opponent.




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