A government reshuffle has been on the cards for some time now, and David Cameron has made all of the major announcements this morning. There are not too many surprises in the announcements though.
None of the government’s top cabinet ministers were expected to move, and that was exactly how things worked out. The likes of George Osborne, William Hague, Theresa May, Philip Hammond, Ed Davey, Michael Gove, Eric Pickles, Michael Moore, Vince Cable and Danny Alexander stay in the same jobs.
But Cameron did make quite a few changes to the cabinet.
Ken Clarke was widely tipped for a move from Justice and he now becomes a Minister Without Portfolio, i.e. a cabinet minister without a department to run. Is this a step down, or will he have a wider platform across government? Could be interesting.
Ian Duncan Smith was apparently offered the Justice brief, but decided to stay at Work and Pensions. And that has to be bad news for everyone as his “reforms” bite. His deputy Chris Grayling got Clarke’s old job instead – an obvious move to the right
Andrew Lansley was moved from Health to become Leader of the House of Commons – a clear demotion in an area where the government has rightly been heavily criticised. Jeremy Hunt’s takes over – a reward for his defences of the government at Leverson. Mind you, is someone so close to the Murdochs in charge of the NHS a good idea? He will probably try to give them the odd hospital to run. Well if Virgin can run health services then why not, he might think.
Andrew Mitchell moves from International development to become Chief Whip, replacing Patrick McLoughlin who is the new Transport Secretary. Owen Patterson moves from Northern Ireland to Environment.
Lady Sayeeda Warsi’s replacement as chairman (sic) of the Tory Party was no surprise, despite her pleas to keep the job. Her appointment to a role at the Foreign Office is something of a sweetener and she will also have a role as minister for faith and communities. Overall it is a demotion though.
Justine Greening leaves Transport for International Development, while Caroline Spelman’s gaffe ridden time at environment is over as is Cheryl Gillan’s tenure as Welsh Secretary. Maria Miller takes over at Culture and Theresa Villiers was promoted to the cabinet, getting the Northern Ireland job.
On Nick Clegg’s side of the coalition there was little movement. David Laws, the Lib Dem former chief secretary to the Treasury, becomes a junior Education minister. Laws was the first person to resign from the Coalition cabinet – after being caught out for claiming over £40,000 in expenses that he wasn’t entitled to. Interesting that he is now thought worthy of promotion, isn’t it?
Changes at junior level will continue to be announced throughout the day, although Cameron may have to look hard for “rising stars” to promote.
So what does this all actually mean? In reality we will not see too many changes on government policy as a result, especially as none of the key economic briefs have changed hands. Cameron has tried to appease the right in his own party, particular by removing Ken Clarke from Justice and replacing him with Chris Grayling.
Perhaps the two areas of greatest interest will be Clarke’s new role across government given his reputation for speaking his mind and Jeremy Hunt at Health. I’m sure the opposition will be looking forward to that.
The reshuffle will not affect the governments popularity, or lack of it, greatly. Only a change in the economic mess could do that – and the reluctance of the Prime Minister and his Chancellor to admit that their policies are not working makes change unlikely.
So the game of political musical chairs is over for now. But don’t expect it to matter too much.