Inside Politics: Cabinet reshuffle is a chess game that needs more creative moves than simply checking in mates
AFICIONADOS of Star Trek will know that the only character who could get his head around 3D chess was Spock, whose ice-cold logic meant that he almost always won.
And that is how one of David Cameron’s aides has described the challenge facing the Prime Minister as he prepares to announce his ministerial reshuffle.
One thing that can be guaranteed though is that there will be no place for “The Vulcan” aka the leading Tory right-wing eurospceptic John Redwood, who will no doubt be looking forward to causing more problems for the coalition from the back benches.
And it seems that in the case of the reshuffle, Vulcan ice-cold logic will not be enough for the Prime Minister as he tries to move the pieces around.
Given the state of the coalition at the moment – floundering in the polls, seeing its economic policy under severe strain and U-turning on almost every other issue – logic would dictate wholesale change, but we are unlikely to see that.
Chancellor George Osborne has been accused of being the author of many of the government’s recent woes and many would like to see him moved. But he is also Mr Cameron’s closest political friend and moving him would be seen as an admission of defeat on the economy. So Osborne not only keeps his job, but also gets to help move the pieces.
In fact, while there will be changes in the Cabinet, Mr Cameron is limited on what he can do and senior positions are likely to remain the same.
The Prime Minister cannot sack Lib Dems ministers without agreement from Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, so the “disloyal” Business Secretary Vince Cable stays.
He will though be able to change his chief whip and Tory party chairman. The Tories have been baying for Baroness Warsi to be sacked as chairman for months and she has been noticeably absent when political firefighting has been required. Favourite of many to replace her as “minister for the Today programme” is Michael Fallon, who has been fronting up for the party on the difficult occasions.
There is some talk that, despite the BSkyB fiasco, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, another close political friend of the Prime Minister, will not only survive but will also be promoted to Health Secretary, replacing Andrew Lansley who had a torrid time with the NHS reforms in England.
However, Mr Cameron cannot afford to only reward his friends. He also has to rebalance his government. Somehow, he needs more women in there and more from the right of the party.
Until it happens there is usually lots of speculation about what will happen in reshuffles – much of which turns out to be wrong. But one thing that is sure is that because of such constraints, and because he is not in a strong position politically, the Prime Minister is unlikely to be the real winner of this particular game of 3D chess.
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