The reshuffle was a curious all-party affair. First came the Liberal Democrats, then the Conservatives, then Labour – each a distinct character.
The Liberal Democrats provided the only change at cabinet level: an undeserved sacking for Michael Moore, the quietly astute Scottish Secretary who has done more than anyone to give Alex Salmond enough rope with which to make a fool of himself. Nick Clegg also sacked Jeremy Browne from the Home Office, apparently for letting Theresa May send “Go Home” billboard vans around London. While it is not for he Independent to arbitrate on intra-coalition co-ordination, there can be no excuse for replacing Mr Browne with Norman Baker, a conspiracy theorist who thinks that David Kelly and Robin Cook were murdered.
The impression was unavoidable, therefore, that the serious business was done in the Conservative part of the reshuffle, which saw the unspectacular advance of several women and several supporters of the Chancellor – and, in many cases, female supporters of the Chancellor. Nicky Morgan, Esther McVey, Helen Grant and Jane Ellison will improve the balance and quality of the middle ranks and make the promotion of more women to the Cabinet next year more of a natural progression.
Interest, arguably, came from Labour. Ed Miliband sacked or demoted four shadow ministers regarded as Blairites, at least by those to their left. This was not quite the “declaration of war” of which some Blairite MPs (anonymously) complained. Stephen Twigg has failed to lead on education and Tristram Hunt, his replacement, is no Brownite (he voted for David Miliband). But the Labour leader took a risk in keeping Andy Burnham at health, and failed to make the kind of bold changes that might have persuaded undecided voters to look at Labour again.
In that sense, then, David Cameron emerged slightly ahead from yesterday’s inconclusive pre-election engagement.