So the cabinet reshuffle is over and an extensive and surprising one it was. I predicted many of the changes on my blog two weeks ago (including William Hague leaving the FCO) but some decisions made by the Prime Minister certainly raised eyebrows.
Is the Prime Minister a reshuffle loser with the public?
I have a strange feeling that the Prime Minister himself may prove to be one of the losers. The reshuffle is always meant to reassert the authority of the Prime Minister, reflect renewal in personnel and policy and for this reshuffle there was meant to be a ‘Women’ moment. Cameron has long been accused of patronising and not rating women. It does therefore beg the question, if he dismisses this criticism, why has he taken four years to bring all this female talent forward just nine months before a General Election?
I predicted a promotion for Nicky Morgan and Liz Truss. Both were elevated to the Cabinet at Education and the Environment. Despite Mrs Morgan’s dubious equality credentials the decision seems to have gone down well with both winners. Whether they are as good as predicted, time will tell but for Cameron so far, so good.
Poor Esther McVey – she’s got to feel a little humiliated
Poor Esther McVey, she suffered the humiliation of being paraded up Downing Street by the Prime Minister to be given her ‘reward’ for being one of the talented women. Minutes later, Esther is posing outside but still in the same job. Cameron drops the ball by announcing she will receive no promotion but will attend Cabinet on occasion. (I agree with Andrew Neil that this does not actually make her a Cabinet Minister). Plus couldn’t this have been done over the phone like everyone else staying where they were? Did he really need Esther to make that catwalk up Downing Street. How will she contribute fully at Cabinet anyway? Her Secretary-of-State boss will be there to speak for the department – Gesture politics? Well, it seems that way.
Massacre of the moderates
What Labour called the massacre of the moderates (or pale, male and stale…so harsh) was indeed spectacular. William Hague, Ken Clarke, Dominic Grieve, Damian Green, Andrew Lansley et al all for one reason or another left the Cabinet. In a surprise move, Liam Fox was asked to serve as a junior minister at the FCO and politely declined. I bet he did! And not a single woman left their post. The very likable and talented Priti Patel and Matthew Hancock, two more of my predictions for promotion, were rewarded.
Looking at the 'Losers'
So where did I fall short? Well I did not anticipate Michael Gove being in effect demoted (although apparent it isn’t), Lord Hill as EU Commissioner and I have to confess despite being a political anorak, I had never heard of the new Attorney General!
So there are more women around the Cabinet table, some I’m afraid for cosmetic purposes and some there on merit, but still well below the number that it should be. Will the new look help Cameron win the General Election? Personally, I don’t think it will make much difference, if anything women voters may have been alienated further with this belated PR exercise. Generally though, at elections people will vote on the big issues affecting their lives, the economy, immigration and the state of the NHS. It will be interesting.
I end with this, the biggest loser of the reshuffle was Britain itself. We lost a talented and fine man in William Hague, the most able politician of his generation of any political party, a great speaker and a great servant to Britain.