This was a self-serving reshuffle designed only to level up Boris Johnson’s standing in the Tory party

by David Talbot

For someone who supposedly dislikes upsetting people, the Prime Minister has a unique way of showing it. During his twenty six months in power, Johnson has sacked twenty seven Cabinet Ministers – an attrition rate worse than Donald Trump’s tumultuous administration.

The long-mooted reshuffle was previewed as “uniting and levelling up the whole country”. The reshuffle confirmed, though, if nothing else, that the only levelling up the Prime Minister is preoccupied with is with himself. Johnson has never sought to assemble the strongest possible Cabinet to the benefit of the country. He is perpetually afraid of being outshone, which has directly led to the lack of clarity on the central purpose of his government. Despite most of the media gushing that the Prime Minister was ‘ruthless’ he has still surrounded himself with Brexit and personal loyalists.

The Prime Minister fell back on his oldest tried and tested trick; to please the party faithful. Nadine Dorries may well have been an effective and diligent Health Minister during the pandemic, but her views on cultural issues are well-known and demonstrably offensive to many. Indeed, if her promotion was based on the success of her book sales, as the Defence Secretary has suggested, then – to use a Johnsonian turn of phrase – one can object purely on literary grounds alone.

This is a government which, having taken credit for the successful vaccination rollout that the NHS devised and then implemented, is bereft of ideas and purpose. If, as reports suggest, the Prime Minister truly is intent on fighting the next general election on Brexit – and supposedly how the dastardly EU would scupper ‘freeports’, for instance – then this repeat will be much like the digital ABBA concerts for once popular concepts which should have long since been retired. Leave won the argument, many years ago, it needs to own it, and start delivering on its promise to voters which either backed it in 2016 or wanted rid of the ongoing trauma of it in 2019.

The government’s characteristics to date can, politely, be classified as muddled and ineffectual; from the initial response to COVID-19 pandemic, to the chaotic scenes seen in Kabul airport last month. The one other moniker that the government has continually espoused, beyond the vague notion of its ‘levelling up’ agenda, is Global Britain. Afghanistan was a humbling and sorry episode to that particular thought exercise, and even on the supposed success and substance of Liz Truss in promoting that vision through new and expansive trade deals, the reality is significantly behind the rhetoric. The ambition, though, has barely moved on since Liam Fox’s early Brexit-fuelled bravado.

This is a government whose agenda is difficult to define and whose record could be seen as a toxic combination of incompetent and weak. It is damaging to both the party and the country. Despite all the bombastic nature of the Cummings era, the Conservatives’ manifesto was deliberately thin in December 2019 and, in a post-Covid world, now dangerously out of date.

The final reshuffle before a general election is meant to show clarity of purpose. Johnson wants his key lieutenants to ‘deliver’ but, as the tortuous summer speech on ‘levelling up’ demonstrated, he has little to no interest in charging them with what his vision actually is. COVID-19 ruthlessly exposed the Prime Minister’s inherent faults; his inefficiency, his incompetence, his indifference to vast swathes of life that does not – until it does – directly affect him. He has never empowered his Cabinet to do anything other than to elevate him.

David Talbot is a political consultant

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13 Responses to “This was a self-serving reshuffle designed only to level up Boris Johnson’s standing in the Tory party”

  1. A.J. says:

    Where’s the actual surprise in all this?

  2. A.J. says:

    Wasn’t Harold Wilson always eager to cover his backside/bugger up George Brown/shore up his own position? Is it not the nature of political life at the top of the greasy pole? Keir Starmer, of course, would never dream of shafting anyone; even ‘Ang’. He’s far too nice. Which is probably why he’ll never get anywhere further than twelve people in a garden in Swindon. To the victor the spoils.

  3. john P Reid says:

    In 2007 Gordon could’ve gone to the electorate and won but He’d only have had a majority of 20 to play around with for the Next 5 years

    but he’s have left labour in power too 2012

    this Is Boris’s Conundrum

    Go to the electorate in 2023 win with a majority of 25, which is a lot less than now but have A election you can win out right

    and Even if the Tories mess up and Labour have A decent leader post 2023, it’s still another 5 years in power too 1017 rather than Dec 2024

    Of course it’s probable the tories will win in 2028 if they did this as well, (but that’s not the point)

  4. Tafia says:

    Can anyone name a PM, outside of wartime or things like the Great Crash & Recession ipre WW2, that has ever appointed a Cabinet that wasn’t going to do what it’s told?

    It has always ben the case since we made Cabinets – they are appointed to deliver the PM’s wishes and vision. Fail and you are gone, oppose and you are gone. The PM appoints a Cabinet that he/she believes will deliver his/her vision and discards them if they don’t or they get mouthy, or the press turns on them.

    Let’s look at two things you state, and see whether you are a genius or a moron.
    Aghanistan. So how exactly is that Johnson’s fault. What would you have done to stop the Taliban takeover other than re-start the military campaign provided the US was willing to commit, as well as Germany, France, Poland and the rest of the Allied force which they were not, under any coircumstance. Nobody was interested anymore and they aren’t now either. You are just another carper on the sidelines bereft of any realistic idea at all. If you are so bothered, there is nothing stopping you joining the resistance and risking your own neck. You won’t, to cowardly. All mouth and no trousers. Start understanding something simple – the Taliban do not give a toss what anyone in the west (or anywhere else) thinks about them or their ideaology. China and most of the muslim world accepts that. Raab should have remained on his holiday – there was absolutley nothing he (or anyone else) could do by coming back and only a cretin thinks otherwise. The entire western political establishment at that stage were reduced to spectators. Our MoD and it’s planners, spearheaded by the soldiers of 16 Air Asslt Bde, did a magnificent job. The last thing they needed (or wanted) was politicians interfering.

    Covid-19. Your response then, based on what was known back in March 2019, not what is known now. Have you even read the very last SAGE meeting of days before lockdown? They were opposed to lockdown in anyway, shape or form. Read paragraph 24, Behavioral and soicial interventions. They were also opposed to 14 day quarantine/isolation for anyone other than the elderly and the vulnerable and said the social and health ‘unbenefits’ to shielding the elderly. They also said more had to be done by the individual. etc etc etc. Most people realise that just two ‘experts’ in the same field will give two different opinions, one of which by the law of avergaes is definately wrong, and both of which – by the law of probablity are probably wrong. There is only one truth – everything else is garbage. That same is true through every profession – politicians, bankers, lawyers (always remeber, half the legal teams in every trial etc are wrong and proved to be) – you only have to look at the complete drivel routinely trotted out by economists, that usually fails the test of time within weeks, al lot of the time within days.

    Cabinet is government. It is purely By Appointmet and always has been. Every Cabinet Minister serves at the whim of the PM and no-one else. They are merely occupying ‘grace & favour’ slots. The same is true of every government in the democratic world.

    As AJ says, ‘Where’s the surprise in all this’. A statement of profound obviousness.

    (incidentally, last week SAGE had to release an embarrassing apology after getting their summer Covid modelling badly wrong (every model they have made right through this has proved wrong). A new document released by the advice body admits the modelling “did not foresee such rapid transient change in dynamics”, citing unforeseen reasons such as:

    The closure of schools for the summer holidays.

    A period of warm weather.

    Changes in social behaviour following the Euro Football Tournament.

    How the nation’s brainiest scientists, medics and socioligists did not foresee warm weather during the summer, nor the closure of schools for the holidays, or people socialising in pubs etc far far more during and after a major football tournament is fucking laughable. That’s why the public treat ‘experts’ as something to be pitied and mocked. You are only an expert provided you are right. Always. Get something wrong just once and the public will mock you and belittle you and then ignore you.)

  5. steve says:

    Labour’s feverishly ambitious Right-Wing commentators won’t want to admit to the similarities between the Johnson and Starmer approach: “muddled and ineffectual”, “tortuous” speeches, “incompetent and weak”, “deliberately thin” on policy etc.

    Where Johnson does put one over on Starmer is with the “trick”(?!) of pleasing the party faithful – what a contrast to Starmer’s dependence on the Blairite luvvies of Westminster.

  6. Anne says:

    Can’t argue with any of this. Very depressing situation indeed.
    Many of the voting seniors say ‘I am a Conservative, but I don’t like Boris Johnson.’ Will they break a habit of a life time a vote in a different way?
    Will the reshuffle make a difference? None are very impressive.
    Mrs May is turning the knife from the back benches, and an enlightening book by Gavin Barwell ‘Chief of Staff.’ Some very uncomplimentary points regarding Johnson. Gavin’s most saddest outcome of Johnson’s Brexit is the situation in Northern Ireland.

  7. Anne says:

    What amazes me is the ministers who have no experience or qualifications of the department they have been charged to manage. There is an exception in the appointment of Maggie Throup (previously a scientist) to vaccine minister. In the real world most of the other appointments would not get past the first interview stage.
    What is government for, but to be providing the country with ‘good governance.’ Appointing capable people who have abilities to manage departments – having the ability and knowledge to problem solve, but they must firstly have an understanding of the department they are seeking to manage. Starmer’s team is head and shoulders above what is presently in office.
    An excellent performance by the brilliant Jodie Comer in the drama ‘Help.’ This certainly highlighted the difficulties facing social care – the sad part of this drama is the truth behind it. Again this demonstrates the very poor quality surrounding the ministers in charge. They should be held accountable. In the real world they would be sacked for failure.

  8. A.J. says:

    Johnson is ‘Strictly’ coupled with ‘Love Island’

    Starmer is some monotonous, grainy blur over on Channel Four.

  9. Tafia says:

    Anne – What amazes me is the ministers who have no experience or qualifications of the department they have been charged to manage.

    That is true of virtually every Cabinet Minister, ever appointed, by any government.

    How many Health Ministers have come from the medical profession?

    How many Chancellors have had no background in banking and/or reall world ecnomics such as business?

    How many Education Ministers have been teachers?

    How many Defence Ministers have had military experience?

    How many Labour Ministers in revious governments had never had a real job inoutside of trades unions or the public/third sector?

    How many Conservative Ministers have had experience in the public/third sector?

    It’s perfectly normal for them to have no background. Always has been and always will be.

    Incidentally, the Tory Ministers have had far more ‘real world’ jobs than Labour’s Shadow, Do a bit of very simple child-level checking.

    Again this demonstrates the very poor quality surrounding the ministers in charge.
    Actually, if you watch it again and try concentrating, it highlighted hospital doctors deliberately disobeying NHS/PHE’s instruction not to discharge patients to care homes unless they had been tested first (that was how covid got into the care home in the drama remember? With the discharge of seven untested patients, not even from that care home, who were just dumped on the care home by the hospital, untested, despite the home manager’s protestations to the ambulance staff delivering them), highlighted the refusal of GPs to attend calls to care homes, and highlighted local authorities (who are responsible for overseeing both their own and private care homes along with organisations such as CQC) excluding the private ones from PPE supplies and just giving to the local authority ones (this was a private care home). And then there was the 999/ambulance service deliberately delaying picking up a covid casualty and ‘shielding’ themselves from blame by taking advice from a clinician before they would despatch an ambulance, and said anonymous clinician, from a third hand telephone diagnosis via ‘Martin’ the 999 operator, saying there was no need and he could wait, when the resident clearly had covid and was clearly going to die and the assitant (Jodie Cromer) had made the correct diagnosis, along with measured temerature and other readings yet was overruled and ignored by 999.

  10. Dimalu says:

    You say: ” her views on cultural issues are well-known and demonstrably offensive to many.”

    How can a view be offensive for crying out loud? It’s an opinion! One can’t choose their opinons, and nobody in their right mind should ever be offended by someone else’s opinion.


  11. Anne says:

    See ‘Dom’ is still alive and spouting- ‘Help’ was a drama. The point being made was the truth behind the story.
    It must be considered that the majority of ‘comments’ on this site are from Tory Trolls. They hide behind false names, and make up stories. The internet should be better controlled against these Trolls. Stop publishing their comments. Mrs May was right about more than one thing – her party really are the ‘nasty’ Party.

  12. John P Reid says:

    There’s may ssid 21 years ago
    You know what some people xcsll us rhe nasty party
    That was in the days after Hague lost on A let me take you to a foreign land fletch
    They detoxified themselves
    We now have a Labour Party of the working class are racist
    White field raped by Muslims should shut up for the good of diversity
    Men are women and lesbian should have sex with them
    And if they don’t like it they should suck their girl D@@
    Denied anti semirism
    And why dont you F@@k off and join the Tories


  13. Labour uncut – stop publishing these vile comments – take responsibility. It is time some legal action was taken. The language in these comments is totally unacceptable- either stop publishing them or face an official complaint about this site.

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