David Maddox: ‘Bully’ David preys on the weak and sticks by friends
RESHUFFLES usually take place when governments need renewing or the prime minister of the day wants to exert his or her authority.
Harold MacMillan’s night of the long knives in 1962 and Margaret Thatcher’s brutal axing of the wets in 1981 were examples of prime ministers exerting authority, while Gordon Brown’s and John Major’s reshuffles were ones of trying to breathe life into a flagging government.
David Cameron’s first major reshuffle yesterday was an example of a prime minister attempting to do both after humiliating back-bench rebellions on the Lords and Europe and a series of embarrassing policy U-turns.
But in the end, the reshuffle showed that his position is intrinsically weak. Like a school bully, he targeted the weak and less-supported ministers, backed down to those such as Iain Duncan Smith who stood up to him and was unable to sack his friends even if they deserved it.
But he was also forced to bring right-wingers into key posts, including crime hardliner Chris Grayling at justice and a climate-change sceptic Owen Paterson to Defra. Both a long way from Mr Cameron’s “hug a hoodie” and husky ride in the Arctic modernisation days.
Jeremy Hunt can perhaps be described as one of the luckiest ministers in the government. His career looked to be over with his handling of the BSkyB takeover. He lost his special advisor Adam Smith when the closeness of the relationship between Mr Hunt and the Murdochs was revealed in texts and e-mails. However, Mr Hunt is to be the new Health Secretary, which is one of the biggest jobs outside the top four.
He has a tough task left to him by Andrew Lansley in the NHS reforms that were brought in against fierce opposition in England from almost all heath professionals.
Mr Lansley, who was also tipped to be sacked for his handling of the reforms, manages to stay in the government as Leader of the House. He was a mentor to the young Mr Cameron, who has now stuck by his friends in keeping them in the Cabinet.
Ken Clarke has been moved from justice because he has upset the right wing of his party with his more liberal approach to crime. The 72-year-old’s new role remains largely a mystery, but it appears that appeals from the Lib Dems, who saw him as an ally in Cabinet meetings, may have saved him from getting the sack altogether.
Baroness Warsi was seen by many Conservative MPs as being in the Cabinet for tokenistic reasons as she is an Asian woman from northern England – reasons she recently gave for being allowed to stay.
The new chief whip Andrew Mitchell is being brought into the key role because the Prime Minister wants somebody to get a grip on his back-benches.
The decision to move Justine Greening from transport to international development can only mean that one of the biggest government U-turns – on the creation of a third runway at Heathrow – is on its way. Patrick McLoughlin, who is tough and pragmatic, will be Transport Secretary. .
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