It is David Cameron doing what David Cameron does best: the heir to Blair. But just like another heir to the throne he doesn’t quite fit the same clothes.
But our dear leader does try nonetheless. Out go all those nasty white middle-class men (oh, you mean the ones who vote Tory by the millions?) and in comes the ex-TV presenters. But Dave being Dave, he does like a bit of blood when doing his re-shuffles, so he axed his best mate Michael Gove, booted fellow Europhile Ken Clarke to the backbenchers, and even two-brains David Willetts was fired.
William Hague chose the opportunity to sneak out the back-door and announce his retirement from politics at the General Election next year. It’s a real shame about the boy from Yorkshire who told the old fogeys at the 1977 Tory Conference they’d all be dead by the time he was in power never really fulfilled his potential. Yes, he made it to one of the big offices of State, the Foreign Office, but he was pure prime ministerial material if it wasn’t for the unfortunate episode of being Conservative leader straight after John Major had been royally kicked out of Number 10. That did it for “Team Hague” and the same passion he showed in 1977 was extinguished by the start of the noughties. Frankly, I’m surprised he hung on for over a decade more since he was sacked as leader.
Dave being Dave decided to axe the only real Tory in the Cabinet, Michael Gove, from his brief at the Education department because the teachers didn’t like him. I think that’s a bloody good reason to keep the man on – he must be doing (and was) a fantastic job. But it was all too ideological for Dave so he had to go. Replacing him is the excellent Nicky Morgan but again this will be a waste of talent as all she has to do is see the reforms Gove made implemented – I wonder if she’ll be able to stop the civil servants and the Lib Dems from watering down the legislation? Gove spent most of his time, it is rumoured, spotting and tackling mandarins, Nick Clegg and David Laws as they tried to stop the Government putting children first and teachers second.
One thing the British Civil Service is good at is changing the guard in an efficient manner: she’d hardly stepped out on to Downing Street after a chat with Dave (it is unsure if it was over red wine) when she was up in lights and Gove was kicked into the dark corridors of Westminster as the new chief whip.
I’m not overly fussed by the re-shuffle really: most of the electorate didn’t know who was in the cabinet on Sunday and most won’t know tomorrow. It’s all about the politics and whose mush shows up on the regional and national news, hence former GMTV presenter Esther McVey being promoted to Employment Minister and “will attend cabinet” – in other words she is the new “minister for TV” – expect to see a lot of her on the airwaves between now and May next year.
Dave is obsessed that it is the nasty right-wing white males who are his problem, hence the cull of many white males (arguably right-wing but not all). This will cause a lot of rancour on the Tory backbenches and in the shire constituencies (where the Conservative base is), which might counter the new female faces he has promoted to step in front of the camera.
One thing which will really annoy the parliamentary party is the insult chucked at Liam Fox. The previously-fired former Defence Secretary (a position now held by Michael Fallon after Philip Hammond was shunted to the Foreign Office post-Hague) was offered by Dave a junior ministerial position in the Foreign Office if he wanted to return to Government. Dr Fox declined putting out this statement. This blog is a family-friendly site so I shan’t provide the translation but it goes along the lines of “naff off” as Norman Fletcher used to say.
And in other news, Lord Hill, Leader of the House of Lords, has been nominated as the UK’s next European Commissioner. Who?
July 15, 2014 at 8:58 pm
I’m not sure about some of your analysis here Gavin. I’d contend that Willets wasn’t fired, he was one of five who stood down before, making way. He is another, like Hague, who failed to achieve his full potential.
Hague probably did fulfil his potential. As much as many of us look back with rose tinted glasses to his time in the unenviable position of opposing Blair’s first term, he failed to make ANY inroads, and didn’t make the changes the party needed to make to lay the ground work for a win – which Howard DID do (even if the gamechanging TV debates allowed Cleggy to undermine all that good work by stealing Cameron’s majority). I’m far from convinced that Hague was ever “Prime Ministerial” material, he made a huge number of mistakes and missteps as Leader and the public simply didn’t warm to him – he was the Ed Miliband of his day, only with a party people held a visceral hatred for.
Gove had to go because Lynton wanted him out. Polling showed that he was SO hated by teachers he was handing entire seats to Labour. Nicky Morgan is expected to be more conciliatory to the less militant teaching unions, proving that while you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs, you don’t have to throw them at the wall at 100 mph. It is possible to make big changes if you take people with you, and you can make more with honey than lemon.
I’m surprised you didn’t know that Esther McVey wasn’t promoted at all – she was made Minister of State at the DWP in the previous reshuffle. She would have taken over the top job if Cameron had the guts to tell IDS that it was Defence or the backbenches, which was undoubtedly his original plan. IDS may talk a good game about changing welfare, but actually his Universal Credit scheme, whilst sensible in principle, has been a complete disaster in delivery. It was supposed to be coming on stream this year – I doubt it will ever come to fruition now. He has been a disaster as SoS and the fact that Cameron can’t sack him showed, in my opinion, that he is weaker than he wants to admit.
I would expect the intention was to bring Liam Fox back at a level he could accept, in Cabinet, but once he made clear he would only go back to Defence, or to become Foreign Secretary or Home Secretary, that was never a go-er. How exactly is being Minister of State in the Foreign Office not related to Europe, one of the areas his statement says he would have been interested in? He could have gone to a major department, but of course IDS refused to move as well.
I’m not sure that you can argue that the Tory party is exactly lacking for middle aged white men – they still make up a majority of ministers. I think the spin on this reshuffle has been very unfair to the ladies concerned. I would argue quite strongly that both Nicky Morgan and Liz Truss deserve to be in Cabinet on merit – and if we didn’t have those pesky Lib Dems in Government (who have 0 female Cabinet Ministers) we would probably have seen McVey and possibly Leadsom promoted to the Cabinet as well.
As for your comment on Lord Hill, former Leader of the House of Lords and a senior advisor to John Major, I am astonished you don’t know him. Jonathan Hill is exactly the right man to take on the Eurocrats, and he has experience and common sense not to become another Leon Brittain or Chris Patten. Plus by sending a Lord, he avoids another costly by-election – while fighting Newark was successful, it diverted the attention of the party from the General Election, while Labour went through the motions. It also cost nearly £100k, money that would be better targeted to 40/40 seats like Ipswich!
I’d add that I am positive Gove moved at his own volition – he told Channel 4 News that he was offered the chance to stay. As Chief Whip he is perfectly placed to ensure Theresa May and Boris Johnson don’t stand in George Osborne’s way to become leader after Cameron – which should be celebrated by all true Conservatives, because May would be a disaster and Johnson is a showman without the substance of Osborne.
I’d also add that this was an “Osborne” reshuffle. Hancock was his Chief of Staff. Morgan was Financial Secretary. Fallon is close to him. Hammond was Shadow Chief Secretary. The people who were advanced were all Treasury or Osborne acolytes. Expect that to be underlined when the PPS list comes out over the next couple of days.