UK Politics

I've Reshuffled Cameron's Cabinet So He Doesn't Have To

19 Jul 2012 at 18:41

It is much to David Cameron’s credit that he is not a reshuffle addict. The fact is, he hates them. So it is little surprise that his first major reshuffle, predicted for early September, is much anticipated and is the subject of much speculation. Had it not been for Jeremy Hunt’s little local difficulties, the reshuffle might well have happened in May, and were it not for the Olympics, it might well be happening this week.

Watching the antics of some of the 2010 intake you’d think it would be happening today. So desperate are some of them for their phone to ring and be appointed junior minister for paperclips, they are almost self-combusting in their keenness to be handed a ministerial red box. But most of them will be very disappointed, especially if they are the proud owners of a pair of testicles. According to ConservativeHome, there may be only three male MPs who are promoted. Why? Because by the end of this Parliament David Cameron is committed to 33% of his ministers being female. Nick Clegg wasn’t foolish enough to make that commitment.

Let’s start at the top and look at the Conservative members of the Cabinet and analyse who might make way for some fresh meat. Here are the ministers at risk of ejection…

Ken Clarke, by very dint of his age, is certainly at risk. He has also been at the centre of one or two departmental cockups and seems out of kilter with the Prime Minister’s views on sentencing and prison conditions. Sir George Young has done a perfectly good job as Leader of the House but there would be few cries of protest if he were to be asked to make way. Caroline Spelman is a nice woman but it is fair to say she hasn’t ripped up many trees, so to speak, at Defra. Her sex may save her, but she has few people who will jump to her aid if she is axed. Jeremy Hunt – another member of the ex future leaders of the Conservative Party club – may just survive, but is almost certain to be moved from his current post. Cheryl Gillan is tipped to be replaced by David Jones, but it is difficult to see why. She is popular, has done a good job, and Cameron can hardly afford to lose three women from his cabinet. I tip her to survive. Lord Strathclyde is popular but seems to have been in the job for years. He’s also out of kilter with the party leadership on Lords reform and Cameron may want someone more reliable in the job. Step forward Lord Howard…

Sayeeda Warsi is on everyone’s list for demotion and I fear it may well come true and that she will be offered some sort of sop – Ambassador to Pakistan or Minister of State for something not very important. It’s a great shame that she has been so shackled in her current job, as she could have made a real difference if she had been allowed to. But if she goes, then so must her co chairman and Cameron best friend Andrew Feldman. I rather like him, but appointing your best friend to such a job is just not right.

Choosing a new party chairman is no easy task for the Prime Minister. As an election draws near the job needs a big hitter, someone who has a good sense of political strategy and is respected by the media. The name often touted for the job by political journalists is Grant Shapps. He would certainly be a good choice as someone who is very good at getting on the media, but as an election strategist? The jury is out on that one. Many remember the Ealing Southall By Election. I do think he will get the job, but personally I’d put him in a ‘difficult to sell’ policy job. Another possibility would be Andrew Mitchell, who was keen to be David Davis’s party chairman had he won the leadership. Many moons ago he was Vice Chairman in charge of candidates. Some are suggesting either Jeremy Hunt or Michael Gove for the job. Ridiculous. Hunt in particular is not hard enough and is not a political strategist. My own choice for Party chairman would be Michael Fallon but I don’t see that as likely.

Francis Maude is another who may be seen by some to be past his sell by date, but he has been quietly effective in his job so far and it would be a mistake to move him in my opinion.

So, here are my tips for outright ejection – Sir George Young, Ken Clarke, Caroline Spelman, Sayeeda Warsi, Lord Strathclyde.

I think it is also fair to say that two more on the ‘At Risk Register’ would be Patrick McLoughlin and Andrew Lansley. Patrick McLoughlin has been Tory chief whip since December 2005 – a long stint by anyone’s measure. At the 1922 Committee on Wednesday David Cameron seemed to give him the football club chairman’s vote of confidence – at least, that was how it was interpreted by many in the room. Personally, I see no reason to make a change in chief whip. McLoughlin has done the job well, and it is difficult to see a natural successor. Some have mentioned Andrew Mitchell for the job and in some ways you can see why. He is a former whip and is seen by some as a bit of a bruiser. But right for the job now? I think not. Right for the job in a minority government? Maybe.

I expect Andrew Lansley to remain in the cabinet, either as Leader of the House or remaining in his current job. To move him would be seen as an admission of failure. The only way I think he would leave the cabinet is if he asked to, or if Cameron decided to gift the whole department to the LibDems, something I suggested a year ago and which Fraser Nelson has written about recently too.

Let’s now turn to those who are as safe as houses in their current jobs. There has been some silly season speculation about Hague and Osborne doing a job swap. It won’t happen for many reasons but the main one would be William Hague’s refusal to leave the Foreign Office. This will be his last job in government and he has no interest in any other job. And to move Osborne would send all the wrong signals, especially to the money markets. Osborne is there for the long term whether people like it or not. But he needs to concentrate on his job as Chancellor. Any political strategy work needs to be passed on to someone else – preferably a powerful new Conservative Party Chairman. Osborne’s reputation as a political strategist has always been overblown, but many believe he has been found out in recent months.

Others I do not expect to be moved include Philip Hammond, IDS, Owen Paterson, Eric Pickles, Michael Gove and Theresa May. Hammond has only been in the job for nine months, it’s difficult to see where you would move Pickles to, Michael Gove needs to stay at Education to cement his reforms, and Theresa May has done nothing to merit a demotion. She heads a basket case of a department and needs more time to sort it out. The Guardian reckons Michael Gove will go to the Home Office and be replaced by Liz Truss. That would be bonkers on two counts. Gove is not in tune with current Home Office policy – he is not exactly a libertarian. And secondly, who in their right mind would promote someone who isn’t even a minister to the Cabinet? That way madness lies. If May does get moved I suspect it would be to Justice.

I expect Justine Greening to be moved sideways, so she is removed from having to preside over any U turn on airport capacity. She would make a good replacement for Jeremy Hunt at Culture, Media & Choirboys.

Andrew Mitchell has made clear he’d like to remain at International Development but I think he may well find himself in a new job, possibly Transport but more likely at the Department of Business.

So, assuming we have five cabinet jobs to fill, who will get the nod? The natural thing to do is to trawl the Ministers of State. Here goes…

David Lidington, Alan Duncan, Damian Green, Nick Herbert, Mark Hoban, David Willetts (already attends Cabinet), Mark Prisk, John Hayes, Greg Clark, Nick Gibb, Simon Burns, Chris Grayling, Greg Barker, Charles Hendry, James Paice, Grant Shapps, Hugo Swire, Theresa Villiers.

Only one woman in that list, Theresa Villiers. The obvious thing to do would be to promote her to the Cabinet in the Department of Transport, although she is as anti Heathrow as the current incumbent. But she is also a lawyer and is therefore a candidate to replace Ken Clarke as Justice Secretary.

Of the rest of that list Greg Clark and Nick Herbert are the two most touted names for promotion. Herbert is a strong candidate for Justice Secretary as he already has a role in that department. David Willetts has done a very difficult job well, but the standout name to me is Chris Grayling. He could easily slot into the Transport job, having done it for a period in opposition.

If raw ability played any part in this – and it often doesn’t – Damian Green would certainly be joining Chris Grayling at the Cabinet table, but for whatever reason David Cameron is said to be suspicious of him. Possibly because of his long term association with David Davis. One name I would put in the mix for promotion is Cabinet Office minister Mark Harper. Tory MPs may not like the policy he has been promoting, but he has performed with assurance and panache, both at the Despatch Box and in the media. He’s been batting on a difficult wicket, and hasn’t shown any signs of getting bowled out. That counts for a lot in politics.

But where are all these extra women going to come from? If we look further down the ministerial ranks among the Parliamentary Under-Secretaries we find the following: Maria Miller, Chloe Smith, and Anne Milton. Well, I suppose Maria Miller might find her day has come, but after her recent TV performance I think we can safely assume Chloe Smith’s hasn’t.

So could David Cameron REALLY promote any female members of the 2010 intake straight into the Cabinet? Frankly, I think he’d be mad if he did, but if so, here are the leading candidates…

Anna Soubry, Louise Mensch, Nicky Morgan, Andrea Leadsom, Liz Truss, Harriet Baldwin, Margot James.

I wouldn’t appoint any of them, not because they’re not good, they are. But many politicians have suffered from early over-promotion. Remember John Moore? Theresa May was promoted to the Shadow Cabinet far too early in the late 1990s and the same thing happened to Theresa Villiers back in 2005. All of them should be made junior ministers this time and then their performance assessed in a year’s time.

Of course, to make room for new blood in the lower ministerial ranks, Cameron will have to get rid of some Ministers of State and Parliamentary Under-Secretaries. Speculation suggests that the following are at risk…

Gerald Howarth, Peter Luff, Stephen O’Brien, Jonathan Djanogly, Crispin Blunt, John Randall, Charles Hendry, Michael Fabricant, James Paice, Nick Gibb, Bob Neil, Angela Watkinson and Bill Wiggin

There will be many eager beavers in the 2010 intake wanting to replace them, but the ones in prime position to do so will be the more junior members of the Government Whips office. Shailesh Vara, Greg Hands, Philip Dunne, Mark Francois and Brooks Newmark will stake their claims.

Of course it’s not only the 2010 intake who will be pushing their claims. There are around 25-30 Conservative MPs who thought they would be ministers, but instead, their positions went to Liberal Democrats. People like Eleanor Laing, Ben Wallace, Keith Simpson, Rob Wilson, Adam Afriyie, David Burrowes, Mark Simmonds, Andrew Selous & Stephen Hammond could all expect preferment, but I suspect only a couple of them will get it.

In the lower ranks, there will be around 15-20 new entrants to ministerial office or the whips office from the Conservative benches if my calculations are anywhere near correct. Here are my top tips…

Gavin Barwell, Nicola Blackwood, Nicholas Boles, Tobias Ellwood, Anna Soubry, Nicky Morgan, Claire Perry, David Rutley, Andrea Leadsom, Liz Truss, Sajid Javid, John Glen, Harriet Baldwin, Margot James, Matthew Hancock & Edward Timpson

A week ago, I’d have added Jesse Norman, Angie Bray, Nadhim Zahawi and Conor Burns to that list.

We also have to think about how Nick Clegg might reshuffle his ministers. In the Cabinet he has Ed Davey, Vince Cable, Danny Alexander and Michael Moore. My tips are for Jo Swinson to replace Michael Moore and Davis Laws to replace Vince Cable, who I think may well ask to stand down to position himself for the post-coalition LibDems. Lower down the ranks Sarah Teather hasn’t exactly covered herself in glory. The trouble for the LibDems is that they don’t have a huge wealth of talent on their backbenches, and most LibDems will be wanting to concentrate on trying to hold their seats. But expect Norman Lamb to become a Minister of State and Julian Huppert to be one of the new LibDem ministers, possibly alongside Duncan Hames and Stephen Williams.

So, as with most other commentators, I suspect I’ll be wildly out, but here’s my predicted post reshuffle lineup.

Prime Minister David Cameron

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg

Chancellor George Osborne

Foreign Secretary William Hague

Home Secretary Theresa May

Secretary of State for Justice Theresa Villiers or Nick Herbert

Secretary of State for Defence Phillip Hammond

Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling

Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport Justine Greening

Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change Ed Davey

Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove

Secretary of State for Health David Laws

Secretary of State for Work & Pensions Iain Duncan Smith

Secretary of State for Business Andrew Mitchell

Secretary of State for Communities & Loc Govt Eric Pickles

Secretary of State for the Environment Maria Miller

Secretary of State for International Develt Jeremy Hunt

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson

Secretary of State for Wales Cheryl Gillan

Secretary of State for Scotland Jo Swinson

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander

Leader of the House of Lords Lord Howard

Leader of the House of Commons Andrew Lansley

Chairman of the Conservative Party Grant Shapps

Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude

Head of Policy Oliver Letwin

Minister of State for Universities David Willetts

Chief Whip Patrick McLoughlin

Attorney General Dominic Grieve

Discuss!

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