Freshwater’s Public Affairs team takes a look at the key movers and shakers in this week’s Government reshuffle.
This week the Prime Minister’s expected summer reshuffle took place. Less expected was that the ministerial team would be changed so dramatically this close to a general election.
The number of sackings, demotions and changes – including heavyweight figures like William Hague, Michael Gove and Kenneth Clarke – has led some of the commentariat to draw parallels with the ‘Night of the Long Knives’, Harold Macmillan’s brutal 1962 reshuffle, which saw seven Cabinet ministers sacked in one night.
There were the headline announcements that William Hague, a constant presence in the Conservative top team – whether in Government or Opposition - since his promotion to Secretary for State for Wales in 1995, is no longer Foreign Secretary, and Michael Gove has been moved from the Department for Education to become the Chief Whip. While Hague lives on in the Cabinet as Leader of the House, the announcement of his retirement at the next election signals something of a changing of the guard at the Conservative Party’s top table.
But the changes go much further than this and reflect David Cameron’s attempts to change the image of the Government from being too “male, pale and stale” to more modern and representative of the country.
There are clear incentives for a party that has to meet the challenges of attracting more votes from women and young people to present more fresh and young faces on its frontline. But the reshuffle has been met with criticism by some. People on the centre of the party are unhappy that Grieve and Clarke have been sacked, whilst those on the right are disappointed that Gove and Paterson have been demoted.
There is also the whiff that many of the changes have simply been made for presentational reasons, rather than on merit. With only eight months to go before Parliament dissolves before the general election, the new recruits have very little time to get their heads around what are some rather complicated briefs – particularly so for those who have little existing experience of their new portfolios.
The biggest winners of the reshuffle were Philip Hammond and Nicky Morgan, who now occupy the top posts at the Foreign Office and the Department for Education respectively. Philip Hammond is a former transport secretary who was appointed Secretary of State for Defence in 2011. Nicky Morgan’s rise has been meteoric. Ms Morgan was only elected an MP in 2010, and her most high profile roles to date, which she was only appointed to this April, were as Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Minister for Women – a role in which she continues.
The demotion of Michael Gove to Chief Whip came as a surprise, but his unpopularity with teachers and strained public relationship with a continuing star of the Cabinet, Home Secretary Theresa May, have perhaps forced David Cameron’s hand.
There are other new faces in the Cabinet too, with former Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education Liz Truss becoming the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and Stephen Crabb, MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire, replacing fluent Welsh speaker David Jones as Secretary of State for Wales.
Meanwhile, an established face in the Cabinet, Michael Fallon, has been moved from ministerial positions in the Business Innovation and Skills and Energy departments to be made the new Secretary of State for Defence.
The transport team has also undergone major changes. Although Patrick McLoughlin has kept his job as Secretary of State, John Hayes has been appointed Minister of State and Claire Perry is the new Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, replacing a man in Stephen Hammond who has seven years of transport experience under his belt in Shadow and Government roles.
Here are the new appointments in full:
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