Leading article: A reshuffle tilted towards the Tory right

This was mere party management that will do little for Mr Cameron's standing

Share

Cabinet reshuffles rarely change the face of politics. On the odd occasions when they do, it is because the Prime Minister has used them to settle a deep-rooted political disagreement with one of the big beasts. The removal of Robin Cook from the Foreign Office is perhaps the most recent example – and that was 11 years ago. A reshuffle like yesterday's, in which the Chancellor, Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary, Education Secretary, Defence Secretary, Business Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister all stayed put, is hardly the stuff of history.

The one major policy issue thrown open by this round of ministerial musical chairs is the future of Heathrow. The outgoing Transport Secretary, Justine Greening, was a prominent casualty, shoved into a less important job because she stuck stubbornly to present government policy. The Aviation minister, Theresa Villiers, was also shifted, though she looked pleased enough because she moved up into a vacant cabinet job. But as the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, was quick to observe, the only point in removing both ministers must have been to reopen the question of whether Heathrow needs that third runway which Greening so adamantly opposed.

It remains to be seen whether other policies are to be altered or abandoned by the newly reshuffled ministers. Andrew Lansley did not want to be moved out of the Health Department, after years devoted to studying the way the NHS is managed. His place has now been taken by Jeremy Hunt, who knows more about public relations than he does about running hospitals. His appointment may herald a softening of policy, or perhaps Mr Cameron just thinks he can do a better job than Mr Lansley at selling it to the voters.

It is not obvious either what demoting Kenneth Clarke from Justice Secretary to an ill-defined economic role in the Cabinet means. The day brought mixed news for George Osborne. His allies did well out of appointments in the junior ranks, but at cabinet level he failed to get someone with a more managerial mindset than Iain Duncan Smith installed in charge of the high-spending Work and Pensions Department. And he has an ex-Chancellor looking over his shoulder. But that does not necessarily imply a change in policy.

However, while the reshuffle reveals few specifics about government plans, it is an indication of which way David Cameron is leaning. There were two Tory ministers in the old cabinet line-up who were particular targets of hostility from the right wing of the Conservative Party. One, Baroness Warsi, has been removed from the Cabinet and shifted into a tokenistic-sounding job at the Foreign Office. The other, Mr Clarke, no longer has a department to run, his place taken by the rapidly promoted Chris Grayling, a believer in keeping criminals in prison, who once had to apologise for remarking that owners of bed and breakfast hotels should have the right to discriminate against gay couples.

Other good news for the Tory right was that Owen Paterson has been brought back from Northern Ireland to run the Environment Department, though he is no friend of environmentalists.

David Cameron faced a difficult choice yesterday, with his Government trailing in opinion polls, strains appearing in the forced marriage with the Liberal Democrats and the Conservative Party fractious and divided. As he planned his reshuffle, he could have kept public opinion at the front of his mind, or the alliance with the Liberal Democrats, but he chose to ignore both to placate his right wing. This was an exercise in party management that will do little for Mr Cameron's standing in the country.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Syria's Kurds have little choice but to flee amid the desolution, ruins and danger they face

Patrick Cockburn
A bartender serves two Mojito cocktails  

For the twenty-somethings of today, growing up is hard to do

Simon Kelner
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones