Stephen Crabb appointed as Work and Pensions Secretary

Stephen Crabb. Picture: Getty
Stephen Crabb. Picture: Getty
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AS a Tory secretary of state for Labour-voting Wales, he was once described as having the “loneliest job in politics”.

But with his appointment as Work and Pensions Secretary, Stephen Crabb has been brought firmly into the Westminster fold.

Mr Crabb, who was elected MP for his home constituency of Preseli Pembrokeshire in 2005 and appointed Wales Secretary in 2014, held on to his job in the reshuffle after the Conservatives took sole power last year.

His stance in favour of staying in the European Union may make him a useful ally for David Cameron but he could prove a thorn in Chancellor George Osborne’s side after it emerged last year he had discussed with friends the possibility of running for prime minister at the 2020 general election.

Far from a career politician, the 43-year-old was a youth worker and marketing consultant before being elected, working in communications and policy roles at the London Chamber of Commerce and the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services.

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Born in Scotland but raised in a council house in Pembrokeshire, his mother brought him up on her own after she left his violent father.

He went to state schools in Wales and Scotland before studying at Bristol University and London Business School.

As a backbencher, he served on the Welsh Affairs, International Development and Treasury Select committees and, after the 2010 election, became a whip before being appointed a junior Wales minister in 2012.

Two years later he was promoted to Secretary of State for Wales, making him the first bearded Cabinet minister in the Tory party for more than 100 years, following in the footsteps of the 4th Earl of Onslow, who had facial fur when he was president of the Board of Agriculture in 1905.

In 2015 Mr Crabb led the Tories’ Welsh election campaign, securing its best result for more than 30 years.

His predecessor in the Wales Office, David Jones, was regularly at loggerheads with the Welsh Labour government, so when Mr Crabb was appointed it was actually welcomed by First Minister Carwyn Jones, who described him as “someone we can do business with”.

With a strong interest in international development, for two years he led Project Umubano, the Conservative Party’s social action project in Rwanda and Sierra Leone.

Married to Beatrice and a father-of-two, outside of work he is a big rugby fan, leading the political battle on the field as vice captain of the Commons and Lords RFC team.

A practising Christian and the patron of a Welsh disability group, Pembrokeshire Mencap, he has also run the London marathon three times and enjoys mountain biking, tennis and playing the guitar.

Political commentator Gareth Hughes, who runs the website The Almanac of Welsh Politics, believes Mr Crabb will be a good choice as a replacement for Iain Duncan Smith.

He said: “It’s the perfect match for this bright man from a council estate. He’s got the common touch but can be tough when necessary. He will listen but also knows his own mind.

“He’s highly-regarded by Mr Cameron (and) some have even tipped him for the top job when Mr Cameron goes.

“His stock with backbenchers is high, so it wouldn’t surprise me with the mess Mr Osborne is making of it. (It would be) the perfect contest - the toff Boris Johnson against the lad from the council estate Stephen Crabb.”