Posts Tagged ‘reshuffle’

Whip’s Notebook: Cameron may have reshuffled the pack but his troops aren’t happy

14/09/2012, 07:00:48 AM

by Jon Ashworth

Number 10 may begin regretting reinstating the September sitting. While we have had an important and moving statement from the prime minister on Hillsborough, the remainder of government business in the Commons has – as usual – been patchy.

Last week’s reshuffle seems only to have caused further friction for the prime minister with his backbenchers and has left many wondering what on earth is going on with the PM’s political operation.

Even Labour MPs find it hard to fathom why seemingly competent and popular ministers such as (now Sir) Edward Garnier and Charles Hendry got the chop. What’s more it’s extraordinary that sacked men got knighthoods but, as Labour’s Ann McKechin pointed out, there was nothing like a dame for sacked women

Instead friends of Cameron, Osborne and Eric Pickles seem to be the ones who’ve won promotion in the reshuffle such as the elevation of the chancellor’s right hand man Matt Hancock.

Mr Hancock has been a junior minister in the business department for barely a week and already he is comparing himself to Churchill and Disraeli.

Over in the Pickles’ department for communities the hitherto relatively unknown MP for Great Yarmouth, Brandon Lewis, was promoted from backbenches in place of the generally liked Bob Neil.  It turns out this new minister’s qualification for the job is that he once used to present a radio show with Eric Pickles on Brentwood’s Phoenix FM.

The government whips office was more or less cleared out with surprising names returning to the backbenches such Shailesh Vara.  Whereas most of the dumped ex-whip just have to settle for being backbench MPs again, the new Tory whips are doing their best to sweeten the bitter pill for the prime minister’s old Eton chum and sacked ex-whip Bill Wiggin by trying to get him installed as the (remunerated) chair of committee of selection.

In so doing they are trying to push out the current chair and Cotswold MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown who also happens to have been a Lords rebel. This move by Tory whips was causing much annoyance in the tearoom this week.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Its a man’s world in government after this reshuffle

07/09/2012, 01:34:47 PM

by Sheila Gilmore

Watching Maria Eagle open an opposition day debate for Labour on rail fares on Wednesday, with a woman shadow transport minister sitting alongside, I couldn’t help contrast that with the phalanx of men on the government’s new transport team. Four ministers all men.

When he was modernising and “detoxifying” the Tory party, David Cameron made much of getting more women into Parliament. And to be fair the 2010 intake of MPs showed a step change for the Tories in terms of women on their benches. Further Cameron said he wanted to see that one third of his ministers were women by the end of the Parliament.

Half way through it is just one in six. That includes some peers – the situation in the House of Commons remains overwhelmingly male. A lot of press attention was paid to the cabinet (one woman less) but the interesting thing to look at is the junior ministers, those from whom future cabinet members may hope to come. What do we see?

In the treasury there are now five men. The only woman there before, Chloe Smith, has been shuffled off to the cabinet office, doubtless on the back of her now notorious Newsnight performance. But she was only trying to defend the indefensible, with Osborne, as is his habit, happy to hide behind his junior ministers at such times.

And it continues. Defence – five men; foreign office  – five men; local hovernment  – four men; energy and climate change  – four men; and environment – four men. A few of the smaller departments are all male as well, but these bigger ones should have given Cameron at least some scope for gender balance.

Yet the women, especially the women elected in 2010, have been widely seen as being effective and talented. I may not agree with what they say but see them being active in the chamber, in select committees and running various campaigns. Scanning quickly down the list I came across one man whose name was so unfamiliar I had to look him up. Turns out he’s been undercover in the whips office for the last two years. A few months ago I overheard a couple of male Tory MPs saying that whips’ threats about promotion were meaningless now because they were the “wrong age and gender.” They can breathe again. Their party has reverted to type.

The 2010 intake (both men and women) have been particularly rebellious on Europe and the House of Lords, and few prime ministers would quickly forgive that, especially with the House of Lords scars being so raw.  But there are a number of loyalists among the women who have been inexplicably overlooked, especially if Cameron was serious about bringing the proportion of women up by 2015.

But then like “the greenest government ever” it is doubtful he really believed in it.

Sheila Gilmore is MP for Edinburgh East

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

This shoddy reshuffle is just a distraction, understanding aspiration is the key to the next election

05/09/2012, 07:00:15 AM

by Rob Marchant

Who’d be David Cameron right now? Mired in political treacle, this week he is trying to divert attention away from his problems with a reshuffle, and wrest back the initiative by lots of serious-sounding pronouncements about economic growth which is proving highly elusive. The public doesn’t seem to be very impressed by him or his coalition at the moment but, then again, neither does his increasingly restive party.

David Cameron’s first problem is that, although he tries to entice his backbenchers with some right-wing soundbites and a few reshuffle sops such as the promotions of Chris Grayling and Owen Patterson, he is forced to tread a line between the centrist husky-hugger and the Thatcherite Brussels-basher, with the result that he is believed by neither side. And, as Iain Martin points out, his hardline economic approach is not necessarily even shared by the Tory right.

Next, it is also useful to note that that Tory right is not what it used to be, either: the “squires from the shires” of yore are a lot less representative of the average backbencher than the self-made businessman or the corporate exec who worked his way up. The hinterland of this new breed is meritocratic, not noblesse oblige; and they do not necessarily think that this Etonian deserves his place in history, after a few years in public affairs and a lot more as a Westminster insider.

Indeed, talking of the right: on observing the US elections, the Daily Express’ sharp political correspondent, Patrick O´Flynn, last week reflected what Cameron could learn from them: that the “first UK party to choose as leader a decent, self-made, down-to-earth, pro-striver leader will get massive momentum”.

He’s right, but the observation is not just for right-wingers. There’s a universal lesson, in that the British electorate is clearly fed up with career politicians, and would like to elect people who they see as appreciating their aspirations.

A simple fact seems to lie unaddressed by politicians: people still want to get on in life, just as they always have done. And they want politicians who understand that. It’s called aspiration, and in Labour we used to understand it.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Calm down Westminster, the reshuffle will change absolutely nothing

04/09/2012, 07:00:16 AM

by Atul Hatwal

It doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t. For all the chatter over the reshuffle, it will achieve nothing. No great new sense of direction will be imbued in the government, no re-vitalised mission.

There are three fundamental reasons that nothing will change, regardless of all of the hyperventilated twittering in Westminster, certainly not at this point in the electoral cycle: Cameron and Osborne’s relationship, the limited room for manoeuvre in making cabinet changes and the government’s inability to manage the media.

First, Cameron and Osborne both know they are bound together to the end of time. It rules out the one change that could have a profound impact the government: moving the chancellor.

Cameron and Osborne might recently have demonstrated bewildering political and economic incompetence, however, these two politicians have had the importance of unity between Number 10 and 11 indelibly impressed on them by visceral personal experience.

Through the 1990s and 2000s they had ring-side seats to the aftermath of prime ministers and chancellors falling out.

In the early 1990s they watched Major vs. Lamont (with the chancellor advised, lest we forget, by a fresh faced David Cameron while George Osborne was a researcher at Conservative Central Office); and then a decade later, Blair vs. Brown. The former conflict destroyed the foundations of Major’s authority while the latter consumed Labour’s will to govern.

For Cameron and Osborne, the ruin of the last Conservative and Labour governments both lay in the recurring war between Number 10 and 11. It is, in a sense, the defining experience of their political lives.

Second, there’s little room at the inn. The need to maintain the balance in posts between Tories and Lib Dems, men and women and right and left means there is exceptionally limited room to upgrade, let alone seat extra guests for dinner.

There’s no moving the Lib Dems from either chief secretary to the treasury, BIS or energy and climate change. Given the constitutional reform element of the deputy prime minister’s remit, a sizeable chunk of the justice secretary’s portfolio is also Lib Dem territory.

The small number of women in the cabinet means that any cull that included Caroline Spelman, Cheryl Gillan or Sayeeda Warsi would require three female replacements. This would anger the not-so-orderly queue of men waiting to get into the cabinet; some of whom thought they actually had cabinet jobs until the coalition agreement was hammered out.

Then there’s the delicate balance of right and left. Cameron’s preferred lieutenants such as Nick Boles and Nick Herbert are regarded as lily-livered quasi-Lib Dems by the snarling right. The backbench right-wing caucus will demand a bone to be thrown, but Cameron must also be wary of surrounding himself with ministers temperamentally hostile to his flavour of Conservatism.

It’s all tricky; so tricky in fact, that the least harmful option is to leave as much the same at the top table as is possible.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon