Cabinet reshuffle: A new-look team that David Cameron hopes will keep him in Downing Street

The reshuffle was designed to increase diversity at the top of government

Environment: ‘It couldn’t get any worse’

The sacking of the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, was greeted with widespread relief today as he ended a 22-month tenure that campaigners, rival politicians and scientists alike felt had been “shambolic”.

Aside from the persistent signs that he was a climate sceptic, experts criticised Mr Paterson for driving through an unsuccessful badger cull despite repeated warnings that it would not work, or might even be counterproductive.

The Tory MP for North Shropshire, who famously accused the badgers of “moving the goalposts” last year after miscalculating their population, was also criticised for lobbying hard but unsuccessfully against a Europe-wide ban on some nerve-agent pesticides known as neonicotinoids. Since that campaign was lost, the body of evidence has mounted further that the pesticides are linked to declining bee, worm and farm bird populations.

 

While in office, Mr Paterson also slashed spending on flood defences, as part of a near-50 per cent cut in the UK’s budget to adapt to climate change, just before the wettest winter on record caused heavy flooding in southern England at the start of the year.

“David Cameron is right to give Owen Paterson the boot – he’s the worst Environment Secretary the UK has had for decades,” said Andy Atkins, the executive director of Friends of the Earth.

But the National Farmers’ Union paid tribute to the former minister for “his hard work and dedication to farming and agriculture”.

The promotion of Liz Truss, the Education minister, to replace Mr Paterson was welcomed. “We should see a more coherent approach to the environment than the embarrassing shambles of the last few years,” said Greenpeace. “Common sense and the laws of probability dictate that Liz Truss will be better than Owen Paterson. She starts with a clean slate and we wish her well.”

But Ms Truss, 38, remains a little-known quantity when it comes to environmental issues. Adviocates for the Tory MP for South West Norfolk point out that she is not a climate sceptic and has championed small-scale solar installations at schools.

But she has also raised fears among some campaigners because of her opposition to larger solar installations and her backing of the Government’s unsuccessful attempt to sell off public forests.

Tom Bawden

Foreign affairs: A delight for the right

The new Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, is an arch-Eurosceptic who has said he could support Britain pulling out of the 28-member bloc.His promotion will delight Tory right-wingers who had accused William Hague of “going native” during his four years of dealings with the European Union.

Mr Hammond is regarded as long-shot candidate for the Tory leadership and has been tipped for a job swap with Chancellor George Osborne if the party wins the general election in May 2015.

Last year, he burnished his Eurosceptic credentials by saying he would vote for a British exit if a referendum was held tomorrow. But he stressed that David Cameron should first be given the opportunity to try to wrest powers back from Brussels.Now Mr Hammond will play a central role in talks within the EU over the future terms of British membership.

He played down suggestions that he would adopt a stridently Eurosceptic approach to the discussions, saying: “I don’t think the way to enter a negotiation is to start issuing threats. The way to enter a negotiation is to look for the areas where we do agree. There are many issues where Britain is not isolated.”

Nigel Morris

Defence: Man ‘on the way out’ is back in

The elevation of 62-year-old Michael Fallon to the Cabinet table came as a surprise in Westminster circles – not least to the new Defence Secretary himself.

Mr Fallon’s ministerial career stretches back to the 1980s, when he was appointed to the Government benches by Margaret Thatcher.

He has been a stalwart servant of the Cameron administration, most recently in two departments headed by Liberal Democrats. He had combined the roles of Business minister under Vince Cable and Energy minister under Ed Davey.

As well as flying the Tory flag in the departments, Mr Fallon, the MP for Sevenoaks, is highly rated for his authoritative television manner. However, it was widely assumed his time in office was coming to an end as Mr Cameron looked to give his team a younger, more female-friendly complexion.

As a result, his name began being floated as Britain’s next  European Commissioner.

Instead the Sevenoaks MP, a devoted Thatcherite, has been handed authority over the Ministry of Defence.

His business background will bring a sharp edge to efforts to bring the notoriously profligate department’s procurement spending under control. His promotion might also be seen as a signal to veteran Tories not to lose hope once younger colleagues starting landing plum ministerial jobs.

Nigel Morris

Wales: Beard is no bar  to high office

Stephen Crabb, the new Welsh Secretary, ends more than a century of top-level Tory pogonophobia. The last bearded Conservative minister was the fourth Earl of Onslow, who was president of the Board of Agriculture, the Conservative History Group revealed today.

Mr Crabb, 41, the MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire, was previously a junior minister. Mr Cameron also had a bearded deputy chief whip in John Randall until last year.

Previous Labour administrations saw a number of bearded ministers.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore