Musical Chairs: What 'reshuffle season' could hold
As Parliament returns from its month and a half long recess, many of the conversations on the terrace or in the lobbies will be on an impending reshuffle.
The print media has spent much of the ‘silly season’ speculating over who will be in and who will be out. Potential winners include David Laws, Claire Perry, Amber Rudd and Margot James. Potential losers; Caroline Spelman, Sir George Young, Patrick McLoughlin, Baroness Warsi and potentially even George Osborne.
Osborne happened to be the main political guest on the Andrew Marr show this past weekend, no doubt keen to show that he is willing to fight for his job and defend the coalition’s economic policies which have so far failed to drag Britain out of recession. One of the questions Andrew Marr couldn’t wait to ask was whether Osborne would still have a seat at the Cabinet following the reshuffle. Osborne responded simply that “you will need to ask the Prime Minister”. Is this the retort of a media savvy politician, keen to move the topic on, or a telling sign that Cameron has already informed one of his closest friends that a move is on the cards?
David Laws has been tipped to make a dramatic return as Schools Minister, the number two position in the Department for Education. Reports this weekend suggest that Clegg would be very happy with this, whilst some other senior Liberal Democrats would prefer Laws to take on the position of Minister for Policy under Clegg.
Regardless of who ends up where, I have always found the whole process of cabinet reshuffles a fascinating one. Unlike some other democracies, the politicians who head up our key departments are not experts in their field and often lack sector specific knowledge. One day a minister is sat thinking up ways to reform our schools, but following a reshuffle they could find themselves working on health policy overseeing the continued reforms of the NHS.
It could be argued that a cabinet reshuffle is simply a media stunt to refresh and enliven a government under pressure. This is not unique to the current coalition, but a feature of the modern era of cabinet government which began under David Lloyd George. The media has spent weeks speculating over who the winners and losers will be, but will the public really alter their opinion of a government because three or four of the faces around a twenty nine seat strong cabinet table have changed?
For those of us who work with, and comment on government, it’s time to sit back, get the popcorn and watch it unfold.