Leading article: A reshuffle tilted towards the Tory right

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


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
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page


General Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk