THE good news arrived first. “It’s confirmed that I have retained my position as Chief Mouser to the Cabinet,” tweeted Larry, the Downing Street cat, shortly before noon last Tuesday.
“In your face, Pickles,” he added rather aggressively, which suggests he has absorbed something of the polemical atmosphere of his political surroundings. Thus we learned that the only popular and competent member of the Government had survived Dave’s reshuffle. Then, at 16:37, came the bombshell: “Sarah Teather is leaving the Government.”
This announcement provoked widespread astonishment since nobody until then had realised Sarah Teather was in the Government: the small but perfectly formed Whigette had eluded detection on the nation’s political radar. Presumably, being a Liberal Democrat, she was not one of the three sacked ministers who blubbed as they were dismissed; since it was Dave who made them cry they must have belonged to his own feudal array. The rumour mill has been rife with anecdotal claims anent Dave’s demeanour as he carried out the executions, sipping fine wine while he gave Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan her marching orders and allegedly telling the departing Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, with the old-world courtesy for which he is famous, that she was too old for the job.
Downing Street has denied these allegations (as they would) and Dave’s own version is a sick-bag marketing claim that, between restructuring other people’s careers, he was engaged in writing a poem about Furry Bear to help his children with their homework task on Winnie the Pooh. Former Transport Secretary Justine Greening is said to have fought back and shouted at Cameron. Silly girl. She actually believed that, because Dave committed his government not to entertain any proposals for a third runway at Heathrow in his election manifesto, he meant what he said. Justine, baby, this is the modernised Tory Party: do you not recognise a “cast-iron” guarantee when you see one?
Baroness Warsi was sacked as Conservative Party co-chairman. Her eleventh-hour appeal for reprieve said it all: “I’m a woman, I’m not white, I’m from an urban area, I’m from the North, I’m working class – I kind of fit the bill.” One could not ask for a more succinct summary of the New Entitlement, the inversion of privilege by which minority or “victim” status has become the passport to high office for the extravagantly incompetent. With a CV like that she should be running the BBC within three years.
The drama surrounding the departure of the dead wood should not distract us from the significance of the new arrivals. Some commentators are interpreting the new appointments as representing a swing to the “right’”. That speaks volumes about how the ideological parameters have been shifted in the Frankfurt Marxist state that Britain has become under the Blair/Brown/Cameron continuum of political correctness. Even within that frame of reference (as the comrades used to term it), Dave’s new playmates look like a nasty accident waiting to happen.
Jeremy Hunt as Health Secretary – they’re having a laugh, surely? Better check what line the Sun is taking on the NHS… The post of Health Secretary today trumps Home Secretary as the nightmare Cabinet position; so, on top of all the other hazards, Dave appoints a man with the Leveson inquiry hanging over his head like a scalpel of Damocles. He has already been welcomed to his post by being booed by the Paralympic spectators. Remember, though, he is One of Us, one of Dave’s backers for the leadership. All the way down the greasy pole it is basically the same old story, pace new Environment Secretary Owen Paterson and possibly Chris Grayling, Ken Clarke’s successor at the Justice brief.
The real significance of this reshuffle is not ideological: it is its arrogant assertion of the total indifference of the political class to the views of the electorate. The return to the Cabinet as Minister for Children and Families of David Laws, who lasted 17 days in 2010 before resigning as Chief Secretary to the Treasury due to a “serious breach of the rules” involving thousands of pounds of parliamentary expenses – is a two-fingered gesture to every taxpayer. Nor are the survivors reassuring. George Osborne will continue to wreck the economy; Theresa May still presides over chaos at the Home Office; Nick Clegg is the destroyer at large.
Not that it matters: Britain has made up its mind about this government. Nobody loathes Cameron more viscerally than Conservative voters. New or old ministers, in or out of ministerial cars, this herd of doomed “modernisers” is shambling inexorably towards the electoral abattoir.