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

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

i Editor's Letter: A huge step forward in medical science, but we're not all the way there yet

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron has painted a scary picture of what life would be like under a Labour government  

You want constitutional change? Fixed-term parliaments have already done the job

Steve Richards
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album