Tuesday, 9 January 2018
UK Government Reshuffle – Rearranging a Few Deck Chairs on the Titanic
After all of the hype in the media, that the prime minister, Theresa May, was going to ‘re-boot’ her Cabinet, the reshuffle of ministers on Monday was a drab affair. Apart from two Cabinet ministers going by choice, one for health reasons and one because he’d largely had enough of it, it was mostly an exercise in the same set of clowns staying put in their ministerial roles.
The reshuffle was also meant to be about the Tory party sharpening up its act on appealing to voters. Thirteen new party posts of vice chair were introduced to champion various policy areas. It remains to be seen if this will make the Tories more appealing. But it was undermined by several social media gaffe’s during the day, most notably Tory central office tweeting out the news that Chris Grayling was to be the new party chair, when he wasn’t. The tweet was quickly taken down. It did at least provide some entertainment on an otherwise uneventful day.
The normally staunchly Tory supporting Telegraph newspaper began referring to a ‘chaotic’ reshuffle, and the dye had been cast.
There was some drama when Health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, declined to be moved to the business department, where May intended swap him with Greg Clarke. Apparently, Clark was kept waiting for an hour and half whilst Hunt pleaded to be able to stay put at health. May was eventually persuaded and Hunt gained an add on to the health brief in social care.
Sajid Javid also got an add on to his title, with housing joining local government and communities, although it was already a part of the department, but overseen by a junior minister. A cosmetic change that is meant to show the government is taking the housing crisis seriously, which it isn’t really.
The other thing this event was meant to be about was shoring up the prime minister's authority, but this was far from achieved. Not only did Hunt refuse to move from health, but Justine Greening refused to move from education, not unsurprisingly turning down the offer of work and pensions secretary in the process, and leaving the government. At last some drama.
Greening was apparently upset by media briefing against her in the last week, and suspected Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, was behind the move, because of her views on Brexit (she supported remain in the referendum). It had certainly been trailed in the media that May was irritated by Greening blocking May’s grammar schools policy. Most reports forecast Greening was for the chop.
Greening pointedly mentioned carrying on working for ‘social mobility’ as a MP, in a tweet after she resigned.
May trying to look tough though, has a habit of back-firing. When she first became prime minister she fired Nicky Morgan, George Osborne and Michael Gove. Morgan is of course one of the Tory Brexit rebels and does her best to hinder May in general. Osborne, now outside Parliament but as editor of the Evening Standard, has a powerful media weapon which he doesn’t shrink from using to criticise May and her government. Gove is back in the Cabinet weaselling away, behind May’s back.
Greening is the MP for Putney in south west London, but only has a slender 1500 or so vote majority, it is also a strongly remain (in the EU) voting constituency, like most of London. I would say she is pretty much guaranteed to join the Tory Brexit rebel MPs group in Parliament now. The rebels have already inflicted one defeat on the prime minister, and she has just bolstered their number in Parliament.
Only eight days into the new year, and Theresa May has botched another political initiative. She clearly isn’t cut out for the role of prime minister, but she staggers on from one crisis to the next, the latest being in the health service. I predict a number of public service scandals breaking out over the year, because the government is paralysed, by the lack of a Parliamentary majority and a deep division amongst its MPs and ministers. It can’t do anything other than Brexit, and they are not making a good job of that either, for the same reasons.
More governing incompetence and national humiliation, for the sake of unity in a political party with less than 100,000 members, which continues to drag the country down uncaringly. The new year begins as the last one ended, a complete shambles.