So, details of David Cameron’s much-trailed Cabinet reshuffle are starting to emerge. After a desperate period in which his and his government’s shortcomings have been all too clearly on view, Cameron will be hoping that his reshuffle will deflect and absorb negative attention, draw a line under the disaster of the Coalition government so far, and portray him as strong and decisive.
But just as when you shuffle a pack of cards you still end up with the same pack, Cameron’s reshuffle changes nothing substantial – and in many ways portrays not only the lack of Tory so-called ‘talent’ but also his own weakness within his government.
A few ‘lowlights’ so far:
Hunt replaces Lansley
Lansley has been the ‘Himmler of Health’ since 2010 – bland, grey and utterly destructive in pushing through ‘reforms’ that plainly have nothing to do with improving care for NHS patients and everything to do with enriching the private health companies that have poured funds into Tory party coffers and even into Lansley’s own office. But he’s ‘not a good communicator’ – he failed to ‘gild the turd’ of his Health & Social Care Act well enough. His punishment is to get the push and become ‘leader of the Commons’, a fine title for a job that means little.
In his replacement, Jeremy Hunt, who moves over from Culture & Sport (how much do you want to bet Cameron delayed his reshuffle until after the Olympics so he and Jeremy could swan about and get in the athletes’ limelight?), we’ve simply replaced Himmler with Goebbels – no less malignant but a little slicker.
Lansley allowed private backers to decorate his office and to participate to an unhealthy degree in both the conception and the promotion of the odious Health Act, but it never became a major public embarrassment as it should have. In appointing Hunt, who was without question in the pocket of the Murdochs no matter what the Leveson enquiry or a proforma Parliamentary vote might say, Cameron has demonstrated his usual ‘sure touch’ by replacing a subtly corrupt Health Secretary with an obviously corrupt one.
Hunt will supposedly start with a clean slate with health unions, in contrast to Lansley who was universally loathed by them. But as Hunt famously smiled as he told the Arts Council that its funding would be slashed, it will only take minutes before he’s equally detested – if he isn’t already. The move can only end up costing the Tories electorally, and for that I guess we should be thankful.
IDS refused to be sacked
Cameron wanted to promote Chris Grayling to the head of DWP – which is the equivalent of replacing a doberman with a rottweiler, and the move had been widely trailed. Ian Duncan Smith, however, considered the offer to move to justice and then simply refused to be moved. A strong Cameron would have sacked him completely from the Cabinet on the spot, but Cameron’s weakness within his party is so profound that he had to simply say ‘Yes, Ian’.
The hapless Grayling thus finds himself moved sideways into a job of which he has no experience. Things still look very grim for disabled & unemployed people – but at least one of the attack dogs will be off screwing up our criminal justice system instead of savaging them. Unfortunately, we’re not likely to see fairer treatment from the DWP until there’s a change of government.
Warsi/Greening sacked – a testosterone ‘whitewash’?
Without question, Warsi has been a disaster as ‘co-chairman’ (sic) of the Tories – bombastic and ignorant in equal measure in every appearance on Question Time, BBC News etc. Greening has been a non-entity and is moved to make way for someone in favour of extension at Heathrow.
But the dearth of women and people from ethnic minorities in the government means that the Tories can ill afford to lose even a nondescript female minister or an incompetent chair from an Asian background. Cameron’s new appointees are looking overwhelmingly white and male.
Some might think that the Tories are missing out on a massive pool of talent by failing to promote BME and female MPs into Cabinet. But it’s worse than that, Jim. Cameron isn’t just failing to promote female and minority talent to the cabinet – it’s not there to begin with. The shape of the new Cabinet is already making very clear a fundamental truth: women and minorities appear, on the whole, to be too clever to be fooled by the Conservative posturing of being on the side of families etc.
The poor quality of the female and minority Cabinet members was primarily because there wasn’t much to choose from in the first place – and Cameron’s ‘reshuffle’ is simply reflecting the general composition of the Tory party: white, male, privileged bombasts who either don’t care about the less privileged or are willing to be believe the lie that attacking them is good for them. No matter how much Cameron ‘reshuffles’, he’s still only got a pack of jokers to work with.
Peter Bone: ‘Sack all LibDems!’
The ridiculous Peter Bone has been all over the news this morning, criticising Cameron for not sacking all LibDems from government so that he can ‘implement completely Tory policies for the good of the country’. Bone demonstrates the complete detachment from reality of the Tory right, since such a move would surely bring down the government at a point where a Tory electoral defeat would be certain (so I wish they’d do it!). It also demonstrates how big an anti-Cameron faction is growing within the Tory party. It’s a faction of loonies who think that the way to our electoral heart is to withdraw from the EU and sever ourselves from European human rights laws – but no matter. Cameron not only doesn’t have a mandate from the electorate – he doesn’t even have anything like solid support from his party.
The news is still coming out, and no doubt there’ll be more to write about soon. But what’s been announced already makes it very clear that Cameron is less engaged in a reshuffle than in trying to prevent a house of cards from collapsing in a gale.
May its fall be soon and irrevocable.