Shuffling the Pack: The Conservative Reshuffle

James Ford

The Conservative reshuffle was probably the least eventful of all last week’s line-up changes.

While Ed Miliband opted to sack or demote the Blairites on his team and Nick Clegg chose to appoint someone who has been denounced as a ‘conspiracy theorist’ to the Home Office, the Prime Minister left his Cabinet team intact and instead promoted a number of rising stars.

Ambitious Tory male backbenchers take note – if you want to get on in the party you have three choices: undergo gender re-assignment surgery, invent time travel and have the infant version of yourself adopted by a working class (and ideally northern) family, or make friends with the Chancellor.

As a rule of thumb, if you were a rising star with close links to the Chancellor (what ConHome dubbed ‘friends of George’ – F.O.G.) then you were probably moved to a position just outside Cabinet, ready for the call should one of the ‘Big Beasts’ stumble or pending the big reshuffle that may well follow a Conservative win in the 2015 Election. So, Sajid Javid, a former aide to Osborne in opposition, became Financial Secretary to the Treasury (the department’s 3rd most senior post) just three years after entering Parliament. Greg Hands, who was passed over for a ministerial role in 2010, was rewarded for his on-going loyalty with the post of Deputy Chief Whip. Interestingly, amongst all the tweets about the reshuffle I noted one that described Hands as ‘an Osbornite’ – is this a political term that will become common parlance?

Matthew Hancock – who was Osborne’s chief of staff in opposition – was promoted to be Minister of State for Skills and Enterprise, a joint brief between BIS and DfE. Two other MPs with links to the Chancellor, Amber Rudd and Claire Perry (the latter also the PM’s Iinternet safety tsar), joined the Whip’s Office.

With the F.O.G.’s taking all the plum jobs, others had to settle for more junior roles. According to Alan Clark’s diaries, the Prime Minister’s PPS is usually appointed as a Minister of State rather than a junior minister for their next job. Poor Sam Gyimah didn’t even make minister, having to settle for Assistant Whip. George Eustice, the PM’s former press secretary, fared slightly better by securing a junior ministerial job at DEFRA.

It was also a good reshuffle for Tory women. Anna Soubry left DoH for the MoD – becoming the first female MP to serve as a minister at this traditionally all-male department. Her old job at Health went to Jane Ellison. Nicky Morgan joined the Treasury as Economic Secretary and Esther McVey was promoted at DWP whilst three of the new appointments at the Whips’ Office were women.

The reshuffle was talked up by Downing Street as rewarding MPs from working class back grounds. So former fireman Mike Penning moved to a more prominent job at DWP and milkman’s son Greg Clark was appointed Minister for Cities and Constitution at the Cabinet Office, attending Cabinet itself as required. Former leader of Bradford Council Kris Hopkins was appointed as the new Housing Minister (though, notably, the role has been downgraded to junior minister status). Coincidentally his appointment means that he will be working for Eric Pickles, another former leader of Bradford Council.

Leaving government all together were John Randall, Chloe Smith (at the tender age of 31 no less), Mark Prisk (allegedly because of his reluctance to do media interviews), Robert Syms (much to his ex-wife’s chagrin, according to her twitter posts), and Richard Benyon.

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