Cabinet reshuffle: You’re just not butch enough, Miliband is told by Cameron
PRIME Minister David Cameron yesterday finished his government reshuffle as he faced accusations that he was offering the country the “same old faces”.
In the first Prime Minister’s Questions since the summer recess, Mr Cameron clashed with Labour leader Ed Miliband, who argued that his reshuffle would not help boost the economy.
Mr Miliband highlighted the move to give former Justice Secretary Ken Clarke a roving brief on economic matters, saying it amounted to a “job share” with Chancellor George Osborne. Referring to criticism of Mr Osborne’s role overseeing political strategy, he said Mr Cameron had “come up with an ingenious solution to the problem of his part-time Chancellor: he’s appointed another one”.
But a clearly stung Prime Minister accused Mr Miliband of not being “butch” enough to control shadow chancellor Ed Balls, amid reports of friction between the two men.
“I’ve got my first choice as chancellor, you’ve got your third choice as shadow chancellor [Ed Balls],” Mr Cameron said. “And apparently you still have to bring him the coffee every morning.”
He added: “That’s just how assertive and butch the leader of the Opposition really is.”
Mr Cameron, who held his first meeting with his new Cabinet yesterday, told the Commons he wants all departments to become economic departments to kick-start a recovery.
Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg rejected claims that the coalition would become more right-wing after appointments such as hardliner Chris Grayling to Justice Secretary and climate change sceptic Owen Paterson to Environment Secretary.
Speaking during a visit to an east London school ahead of the new Cabinet’s first meeting, Mr Clegg said: “Right from day one, this government was anchored in the centre ground. We’ve got a coalition agreement which is there, which is a tablet of stone setting out what we are going to do. That is not going to change.”
But Lib Dem party president Tim Farron voiced concern. He said: “If we have got Conservative ministers who want to do more right-wing, reactionary things, it shows the Liberal Democrats are all the more important in stopping them.”
Meanwhile, Tory backbencher Rob Wilson claimed the reshuffle means the coalition is “winding down” and “moving to a confidence and supply” relationship.
There was also criticism from veterans of the Second World War’s Arctic convoys at the promotion of Andrew Robathan to armed forces minister.
As veterans minister, Mr Robathan likened their claim for a medal to Saddam Hussein giving honours to his henchmen.
Further changes to junior posts in the Government were being announced yesterday, including the appointment of Mr Cameron’s parliamentary aide Des Swayne as a whip.
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