Well That Was A Jolly Reshuffle That David Cameron Has Conducted. Kept The Politburo In Place Though
Henry Forth in Whitehall: As David Cameron shuffles his Cabinet, two things are clear: the electorate won’t be interested because most people couldn’t probably name a single Tory Cabinet member other than Cameron himself, William Hague and George Osborne. And secondly, Mr Cameron would need to sack the Chancellor to get the people out there talking. But he kept the politburo in place – himself, George, William, Iain and Theresa – so it was a bore.
Apart from one appointment: that of moving Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, son of one of the Royal Navy’s finest admirals, Sir Nicholas Hunt, to run the NHS. If you recall, Hunt Jnr was not so long ago heading for the backbenches, after he got too cozy with the Murdochs over the BSkyB bid. (But as fate had it, his political adviser took the rap and Jeremy kept his job.)
So in effect Mr Cameron did manage to produce one surprise, letting Jeremy make a leap from polystyrene cup politics to one of the most important jobs in the land. Either Dave knows something we do not or it has been quietly decided to let the Murdochs get their hands on the NHS.
Mind you, Hunt kept his job because he’s not a bad minister, albeit without a safe pair of hands. There’s another aspect: background. Hunt wasn’t at Eton with Cameron (he was Charterhouse) but he has a good pedigree: he’s a distant relation to The Queen, comes from a long and distinguished line of colonial rulers and was a contemporary of Cameron’s at Oxford. That’ll do. You can stay Jeremy.
Maybe it would have been better if Hunt had not looked so pleased with himself when he left Downing Street - the got-away-with-that-one beam and hand-wave might just have been too much for some voters, who for the moment of course don’t matter a tick.
The politburo members were always safe. Hague, a disappointing figure at the Foreign Office, doesn’t matter a bowl of fig-juice. Theresa May has never had a proper grip on her department but then it’s often an impossible job (too big an area to cover) and so no one will do it any better. At the Treasury George Osborne may have been booed at the Paralympic medal ceremony, but what does the public matter until the next election? Anyway, post-Thatcher Chancellors are untouchable because Prime Ministers cannot fire them without admitting their economic policy has failed.
The other aspect is that these regular face jobs are great offices of state. What these days do you do with such senior ministers? Retirement or the Lords (an unmentionable subject this week) is about all that’s left. Moreover, if Cameron had even suggested Osborne should stand aside, he would have been seen as reacting to opinion polls and focus groups. Moreover, Osborne would simply have told him to get stuffed – just as Iain Duncan-Smith did when Cameron tried to unseat him from Work and Pensions and give him Ken Clarke’s old number at Justice.
As for Ken Clarke, he’s the last of the Tory big beasts. Maybe he’ll never get the soubriquet, the best prime minister we never had, but he has done more for his Party than most. And sadly, he’s also more likable than most.
So, this shuffle means nothing other than that a bunch of incompetents have been swapped for another bunch of not very shining stars. The one person who hasn’t been examined: Cameron himself.
Tied into the woefully wonderless coalition with the daftest minor public school headboy (Caldicott) of the year, Nick Clegg, Cameron has not shone. His opinion poll ratings are dull. Apart from forming a coalition with dead-in-the-water Liberal Democrats, history will on present form find him unremarkable but nice. And this is the way of this shuffling.
The public will be right to have enormous difficulty in knowing who they are. None of them (apart from Michael Gove at Education) say anything inspiring enough to start a debate in the pub and that is the sign of non-government. Government is there to manage the country. But it needs women and men in government who can rouse the rabble and by doing that, be seen to care. Cameron had a chance to create such a troupe this time round – or did he? Looking around his options, they really are, with the exception of the new Northern Ireland Secretary (and what a time to get that gig!) Theresa Villiers, a dull uninspiring bunch of self-importants.
Sorry, Cameron, most of them will always need captions under their mug-shots, until of course they make a cock-up. Then they’ll just sack someone even more obscure. For someone who supposedly held a marked deck, you haven’t dealt a single diamond to brighten our lives.