Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


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Cameron reshuffles the pack

One thing that struck me about today’s Cabinet reshuffle is the deliberate drama played out by the Prime Minister of the day. In a parliamentary democracy, the PM doesn’t really have much power. Unlike the President of the United States, he can’t even go to war without some jumped-up backbencher from Nowheresville North having a vote on it. But when it comes to deciding who has a Government job or not, the Prime Minister has real power – his word is final.

However, today’s reshuffle took the best part of a day to complete. It’s not as if ministers who got sacked only found out today. They knew yesterday or even before. But we still had to see grinning winners like Theresa Villiers and Jeremy Hunt traipsing up Downing Street to “find out” what David Cameron wanted to see them about. I suppose a bit of drama is necessary: who was it that said politics is showbusiness for ugly people?
Anyway, down to business. This is the make-up of the new Coalition Cabinet:
Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service –The Rt Hon David Cameron MP
Deputy Prime Minister, Lord President of the Council – The Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – The Rt Hon William Hague MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer – The Rt Hon George Osborne MP
Chief Secretary to the Treasury – The Rt Hon Danny Alexander MP
Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State for Justice – The Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP
Secretary of State for the Home Department; and Minister for Women and Equalities – The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Secretary of State for Defence – The Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP
Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills – The Rt Hon Dr Vincent Cable MP
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions – The Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP
Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change – The Rt Hon Edward Davey MP
Secretary of State for Health – The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP
Secretary of State for Education – The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government – The Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP
Secretary of State for Transport – The Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – The Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP
Secretary of State for International Development – The Rt Hon Justine Greening MP
Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport – The Rt Hon Maria Miller MP
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland – The Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP
Secretary of State for Scotland – The Rt Hon Michael Moore MP
Secretary of State for Wales – The Rt Hon David Jones MP
Minister without Portfolio – The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP
Minister without Portfolio – The Rt Hon Ken Clarke QC MP
Leader of the House of Lords, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster – The Rt Hon Lord Strathclyde
Leader of the House of Commons, Lord Privy Seal – The Rt Hon Andrew Lansley MP
Minister for the Cabinet Office, Paymaster General – The Rt Hon Francis Maude MP
Attorney General – The Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP
Solicitor General – The Rt Hon Oliver Heald MP
Chief Whip (Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury) – The Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell
The Liberal Democrats have been left in place. Outside of the Cabinet, David Laws has risen from the political dead and becomes an Education Minister, which looks likely to be cover for doing fix-its jobs for Clegg and Cameron across Government. As Harry Cole from the Guido Fawkes blog said, some MPs didn’t spend two years on the backbenchers after fiddling their expenses, they spent time at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. But, hey, if you’re liked by the top brass, you get a pass!
Andrew Lansley has been sacked as Health Secretary and, strangely, Jeremy Hunt, who was Rupert Murdoch’s mole in the UK Government during his botched takeover of BSkyB, wasn’t sacked for corruption, he was promoted today to laud over the NHS. What does the guy need to do to get sacked? In Hunt’s case, it may be what he knows that is keeping him in the Government and in a very senior position at that.
The Government’s position on airport expansion was partially revealed today by the side-ways shift for Justine Greening who moves from Transport to International Development. Miss Greening is adamantly opposed to a third runway at Heathrow and has campaigning heavily on the subject in her constituency, Putney, which sits in the flight-path for Heathrow. Now she’s gone, the Government is likely to seriously look at the third runway option again, which in my view is the wrong approach, as I’ve written here.
A notable move is that of Ken Clarke who has been sacked from Justice and given a non-job as “Minister Without Portfolio”, which means he can attend Cabinet. To do what, I don’t know. But Ken’s seen it all before so no doubt he can offer pearls of wisdom to the public school boys around the the Cabinet table. Frankly, he is probably the only person in Government who has a clue about economics but dumping Osborne was never an option for Cameron, however many British people boo him at a global event.
A major change in the organisation of the Conservative Party was made today in that the hapless Baroness Warsi was given the boot and was replaced by über-moderniser and Cameroon loyalist Michael Green Grant Shapps. I’m not sure that will go down very well with the grassroots. Warsi was dreadful as Party Chairman but she was from the same mould as Hunt, Cameron and Shapps. Cameron’s Government doesn’t reflect the Conservative Party membership or the country and having a Government-man like Shapps telling the members in not so unsubtle terms that we are the reason why the General Election was lost in 2010 is really not going to go down well amongst the voluntary party. Let’s hope he doesn’t equate UKIP to the BNP!
A number of the 2010 Conservative intake have been given jobs today including former GMTV presenter Esther McVey, who becomes Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions (the lowest rung on the Government ladder), and Anna Soubry who will join Jeremy Hunt’s team at Health, also as a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State.
Osborne’s former bodyguard Chloe Smith moves from the treasury to take a few bullets for Francis Maude in the Cabinet Office, where he is pretending to slim down the Civil Service. Sajid Javid replaces Miss Smith becoming the new Economic Secretary to the Treasury.
At the time of writing, it is not known if Ipswich MP Ben Gummer has received a call from Downing Street.


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Stop spending our money

A quote from Justice Secretary Ken Clarke on Sky News earlier was telling: “Public consultation is how we do Government these days.” One could infer from what Mr Clarke said it wasn’t always the case. And, of course, it wasn’t. When we had real leaders running the country, they ploughed on with the mandate given to them by the electorate. As I found when I was a councillor, the return-rate for consultation questionnaires is abysmal. In my view, the reason for this is the public don’t want to be bothered with the minutiae of government: that’s what they elect politicians to do.

But many of the politicians of today are so weak and feeble they must ask “mummy and daddy” – i.e. the general public – permission to almost go to the Treasury toilet. May I remind them the great British public are too busy being real mothers and fathers to their own children and getting on with their own jobs to have to veto every decision taken by government. Just do it – and if we don’t like it we will sack you at the next election. You are not our children – you are our servants. Get to work.

This talk of consultation is because of the latest Coalition Government U-turn – this time on the Pasty tax. Not wishing to go overboard with the food metaphors but this was a right political hot potato which should never have made it to second base in the budget drafting process (that’s if there was even a second base!) let alone make it all the way to the dispatch box. It was only ever going to end in tears if two Conservative chaps who have never had to scrape around for some change to buy a pint of milk at the end of the month decided to tax the working man’s lunch. And so it has passed. Chancellor Osborne is so sorry for his bad behaviour and has promised The Sun he has listened to the ticking off he has received and will try harder next time. There’s one word for that action: weak.

Taxing pasties might not have been the brightest idea but please don’t compound it by doing a U-Turn after half your parliamentary party has gone to their local media to tell their constituents what a sensible idea it is. Clegg does a good enough job at trashing the Tories – you don’t need your own side making fools of your backbenchers as well.

Of course, if we had a proper Conservative Government, we wouldn’t need to touch the beloved Cornish pasty. We’d cut public spending to force down the deficit. There’s plenty of scope. Hardly anything has been cut in the last two years – in fact the Government is borrowing more than Gordon Brown ever did to spend on a bloated welfare state to keep those who refuse to work tucked up in bed until midday everyday. And then there is the NHS which recently spent £17 on a gluten-free pizza, which doesn’t include handling and delivery charges. See? – plenty of scope.

I have a straightforward message to help the Government cut the deficit and bring down our debt: stop spending our money! As Aleksandr Orlov says: “Simples”.