Reshuffle Kerfuffle

by Ray_North on July 15, 2014

Unknown-3Well, I have to say there have been some interesting and some unexpected comings and goings at Downing Street in the last couple of days. This is Davey Cam’s biggest re-shuffle by far – so what does it say?

Well, to me it says three things – first, that the Tories are really scared of UKIP, second, that they don’t give a toss about their coalition partners the Lib-Dems; and third, that they accept that Michael Gove has got it wrong.

There is without doubt a rightward lurch in the complexion of the cabinet – just have a look who’s left:
first to go, and perhaps least surprising is Ken Clarke – the last ardently pro-european on the Tory mainstream, Clarke was also a stout defender of the European Convention of Human Rights – his absence leaves the way open for the Tories to become a more Eurosceptic and less socially liberal party. Dominic Grieve had a similar desire to save the ECHR, and, as Attorney General, was in a good position to save the country from the rather ridiculous act of removing the convention from our own law – now, he is returning to the back-benches, the ECHR is looking decidedly vulnerable.

William Hague’s decision to retire was a complete shock, though, when you consider it carefully, it makes sense, Hague’s ambition has long been snuffed out, and away from cabinet he knows he can make a rather nice living writing biographies of long dead predecessors. Over the years I’d kind of grown to like Hague, he was clearly an intelligent man – and the fact that he had been such a disaster as leader meant he was, perhaps more objective than others who still harbour ambitions to attain leadership. Politically, although he can’t be described as centrist, he can be described as sensible which is in contrast to his replacement at the Foreign Office, Philip Hammond, who is a Euro-sceptic.

Gove’s move from education to the Whip’s Office came straight out of left-field. Many people predicted that any move for Gove might be to the Treasury or the Foreign Office – few predicted the Whip’s Office which is rarely an office that propels one to better and bigger things (is John Major the only politician to have been both Chief Whip and PM?), the demotion of Gove must be an acceptance that as Minister for Education, he has done more harm than good – well, we told you that years ago Dave.

Of those promoted to the higher offices, I have to say, that I know very little about any of them, which as a writer of a political blog, isn’t really a boast I want to make – but, i’m sorry, Nicky Morgan, Liz Truss and Penny Mourdant have stubbornly refused to enter my consciousness – ok, they are women, but, for Dave Cameron, promoting a couple of women to cabinet a year before an election is not an act of gender politics, but a token gesture and acceptance that he’s not doing too well with the female vote. Michael Fallon, on the other hand, has, seemingly, been around for years, without, it appears either impressing or annoying – which is hardly a great argument in favour of giving him a ministerial position. Mark Harper upset everyone when he admitted that he was employing an illegal immigrant – but, after a period on the naughty step, he’s been brought back into Government Minister for Works and Pensions, where, I suppose, he can employ lots of illegal immigrants on a few measly quid an hour.

How the Lib-Dems fit in all of this is beyond me. The Lib-Dems are, traditionally a pro-European and pro-ECHR party – so, are they really going to continue to sit in a Cabinet where the ideological direction of their senior parties is towards further isolation? Oh yeah, of course they are, they’re the Lib-Dems.

On the whole, this re-shuffle is another reflection of the increasingly hysterical way in which the Tories are preparing for the next general election, with almost everything being dominated by the presence of UKIP and a desire to go into the election with a staunchly right-wing Daily Mail type agenda.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jackie_South July 15, 2014 at 4:41 pm

I agree The Hague and Gove moves were the big shocks.

Of the rest, I was more surprised by those that stayed put: there were signals that both IDS and Pickles would move, although probably both remain in the Cabinet.

Iain Duncan Smith was particularly surprising to me given the Hague move: with Hammond moving to Foreign Secretary, the Defence brief would have suited his background without looking like a demotion, giving space for Esther McVey to take his place.

The fact that this did not happen suggests that:
a) IDS dug his heels in again
b) Cameron is too scared to upset Tim Montgomerie and allies by moving IDS
c) Esther McVey is not yet trusted enough to give her full Cabinet rank, perhaps as payback on her perceived role in undermining Maria Miller.

My guess is a combination of all of these.

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George_East July 15, 2014 at 6:38 pm

I don’t think IDS could be moved because it would have been an admission that the welfare ‘reforms’ have been a car crash. They have, of course, but the Tories want to go into the election trumpeting it as a once in a generation success. The Tory press love it so the messaging is not difficult.

Gove is the real shock to me.

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John Dunn July 16, 2014 at 11:10 am

Michael Gove has taken his ‘demotion’, far too well.
I believe Cameron has tactically pulled Gove from Education to cool things prior to the election. By giving him the Chief Whip job, Cameron has given Gove a key ‘Rottweiler’ role in getting the Conservatives re-elected in May 2015.
And the secret deal between Cameron and Gove is that If Gove achieves that Tory re-election, he [Gove] can have back Education, to resume where he left off?

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