The Cabinet Reshuffle: Instant Reaction

By Co-Founder and Managing Director Matt Gillow

Well, thank God the second day was slightly more interesting than the first.

I’ve spent the past two days live tweeting the 'reshuffle that wasn’t' for the TalkPolitics Twitter, and despite a serious lack of movement on the frontbenches, there are still some notable talking points.

The main one, of course, being that Theresa May clearly had too much faith in her own current political standing. Jeremy Hunt not ‘refusing’ the Business brief, but making ‘passionate pleas’ to stay at Health with an expanded Social Care title, are clear evidence that May is very much under the thumb of the Conservative big hitters. The reshuffle was billed as her attempt to shake up the Party, reinstate her authority, and build a Government which exemplified the diversity of modern Britain. Instead, we saw an essentially unchanged front bench, some ropey-at-best decisions in the ministerial ranks, and the Prime Minister crumbling under pressure. Disappointingly, an LGBT, comprehensively educated, Northern MP was sacked in favour of an elite, white, grey-haired man. 

Skating over the Chris Grayling/Brandon Lewis debacle, where Grayling was Chairman of the Party for anywhere between 10 and 37 seconds (according to reports,) the reshuffle didn’t start too badly. Brandon Lewis to CCHQ was an almost universally popular move amongst the Tory grassroots, and he’s supported by fresh, exciting prospects. James Cleverly is social media savvy and a proven campaigner – and both Ben Bradley and Kemi Badenoch were met by roars of approval from online Conservatives. 

In fairness, billing this as the ‘nothing has changed’ reshuffle is perhaps a bit unfair. 100% of the Cabinet Office was comprehensively turned over (although David Lidington is perhaps a like-for-like replacement for disgraced Damian Green), and we also saw the 7th Housing Minister since 2010, as well as the 6th Justice Secretary since 2010. The most disappointed of the reshuffle will arguably be Dom Raab, tipped by some as a future leader – who moved pretty much sideways from Minister for Justice to Minister for Housing. He could reasonably have expected to make the jump to the Immigration brief, or even to Cabinet status when Lidington was moved from Justice. Disputes abound about whether moving Rory Stewart was the right choice – Stewart was an International Development expert in the department, moved surprisingly to Justice. Though some will praise the move – arguing for a humanitarian pushing prison reform, it seems to me a move for the sake of it.

This was, in the end, however, as was billed – the 2015 intake certainly got a look in. Oliver Dowden to the Cabinet Office, Lucy Frazer to Justice, Kit Malthouse to the Department for Work and Pensions, Rishi Sunak to (Housing,) Communities and Local Government, and Suella Fernandes bumped up to Brexit amongst the most notable. Indeed, May and allies are hoping that the promotion of ethnic minority MPs and young women will shine through in the next couple of years – however, her Cabinet is still less diverse than David Cameron’s.

Ultimately, then, kind of a waste of time. Disregarding some strong moves at CCHQ, and a much needed nudge for some of the most talented 2015ers, the big names stayed in place no matter how unpopular, and May lost another valuable chunk of credibility. Really, quite little to report.

Image: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor @Flickr