The Reshuffle: Coming Soon
It is now all but confirmed that David Cameron will be shaking up his cabinet at some point between the end of the Olympics and the beginning of the party conference season. This will be his first major reshuffle since coming to power in 2010, and he has many challenges facing him – who will be given the axe? Who will be promoted? And crucially, what effect will the changes have on his parliamentary party and the wider coalition?
Firstly, it is important to note the major, all-encompassing dilemma facing the Prime Minister; Conservative supporters are crying out for a shift to the right. Surveys for various conservative outlets have reported that the overwhelming majority of grass root supporters within the party believe that the leadership is ‘too weak’ and ‘pandering to the liberal democrats’. Of course, it is extremely important that the Lib Dems are respected within the coalition; appointing a handful of right-wingers to the cabinet may well further sideline Clegg and the other liberal members of the cabinet. However a balance can be struck. The introduction of some more traditional Conservative members to the cabinet will not necessarily lead to a huge shift in Government policy – Cameron’s modernisers can be combined with some more traditional Ministers, and the PM should embrace the chance to have a diverse, vacillating assortment of Conservative members within the Cabinet.
In order to gain a complete overview of Cameron’s options this summer, we should first look at those Cabinet members in danger of losing their positions;
- Baroness Warsi: Unpopular amongst the grass root members, and embroiled in a mini-scandal of her own earlier this year, she is without portfolio; it could be argued that she would be only a small loss for the cabinet if she was to lose her job. There have been calls to unify the current joint position of Conservative Party chairman and she could well lose out in internal party reforms – subsequently losing her Cabinet role.
- Jeremy Hunt: The Culture Secretary is of course embroiled in a huge crisis in regards to BSkyB and the Murdochs. His department (Culture, Media and Sport) is heavily involved with the Olympics, and I can’t help but feel that he would have been displaced from his role many weeks or months earlier if it hadn’t have been for the looming games. Following the Olympics (and indeed the Paralympics), he is perhaps the most likely to lose his cabinet position in the imminent reshuffle.
- Andrew Lansley: The Secretary of State for Health has had a woeful couple of years; his NHS reforms have been catastrophically unpopular and the controversies, protests and strong Labour opposition have at times made him look a little incompetent. Giving Lansley the chop looks increasingly likely, and would no doubt be a relatively popular move in the eyes of the public and the massive NHS workforce. The Government needs a total rethink and fresh slate when it comes to its health policy, and a new leader in the department could kickstart that.
It would not come as a surprise if any of the three above were displaced from the Cabinet, although several more could also find their positions untenable; the likes of Kenneth Clarke has seen his personal approval ratings plummet ever since 2010, and now finds himself as the most unpopular Conservative in government, according to a recent ConservativeHome survey. However, he is seen as a safe-hand and an experienced head for cameron to have around. Somehow, it is hard to imagine Clarke out of government and it would certainly be surprising, although he could well be shifted around into a different position within the cabinet.
Personally, I find Vince Cable the most pointless (and useless) member of the Cabinet, although being a Liberal Democrat, his position is almost certainly safe – alongside Clegg, Davey, Moore and Alexander. In fact, I’d like to see Danny Alexander switching positions with Cable, but that is unlikely.
So, what changes could happen? Michael Gove is the prime candidate for promotion to a higher position; the current Education Secretary has performed outstandingly in his current role, and while there is an argument for him needing to finish the job he has started with his current portfolio, he could find himself in line for one of the Great Offices of State; a switch with Theresa May the Home Secretary has been proposed. I am confident that Gove would flourish in such a role, and indeed May could well feel more adapt at dealing with education rather than the Home Department. Indeed Gove (or May) could also be asked to slot into the Health Secretary role if Lansley is axed.
Appeasing the right-wingers in the party, Cameron could give Ian Duncan Smith a more prominent cabinet role – perhaps as Lansley’s replacement, or filling the Education role left by Gove, or indeed Ken Clarke’s Justice Secretary job if he is removed from the cabinet. IDS is a huge benefit to Cameron – not only because he will please the right – but he is someone who can be imagined fulfilling almost any cabinet role where needed. However, he is reportedly extremely happy in his current job at Work & Pensions, and likely to reject any offer of a move.
While several cabinet ministers will be shifted around, with ‘job swaps’ the current talk of Westminster, several new faces could – and should – be drafted in to freshen up the feel of a currently unpopular government. Chris Grayling and Grant Shapps, both of whom are excellent Ministers, are clearly the two stand out candidates for promotion to cabinet level, having done solid jobs since 2010 and being popular within the party, they would no doubt perform to a high standard in more senior roles within Government. In fact, I can imagine Shapps as an excellent Conservative Party Chairman, potentially replacing Sayeeda Warsi in that role and also a Cabinet member without portfolio.
However, Cameron has pledged for years that he wants more women in the Cabinet, and so the clear contenders for promotion would be Theresa Villiers and Maria Miller – both Ministers with obvious career ambitions, and good reputations within the parliamentary party. Two Tory women who could be without a job come September, potentially include Cheryl Gillian and Caroline Spelman, meanwhile.
Interestingly, one of the most recent additions to the cabinet – Justine Greening (Transport) – wasn’t even a Minister when she was promoted to the Cabinet. As a result, this makes it possible that the Prime Minister will be looking further afield for new talent; perhaps Andrea Leadsom (highly praised in recent weeks for Diamond slaying) could be a suitable candidate; she has decades of experience in a real job (working in finance in the City) and has been a vocal and active MP since her 2010 induction into the world of politics.
While we can only speculate as to the specific changes possible in the reshuffle, what we can be assured of is the fact that Cameron faces several headaches, from pleasing his own party, to pleasing his coalition partners, and most importantly; pleasing the people.