I’ve saved David Cameron the trouble of knifing his friends and reshuffled his cabinet for him. (Blame me Dave; tell them I made you do it). In fact I’ve reshuffled it twice. Once as I (or maybe Nick, who will have a strong influence on any LD changes) would like it to be (while maintaining some semblance of reality – if I had a free hand I’d fill it with Lib Dems but that’s not going to happen so I’ve been sensible and looked at the possible); and once as I think it’s more likely to end up. And what fun it’s been – suddenly I can see why you’d want to be PM…
So here goes – and would value all feedback in the comments section so do let me know your views…
My cabinet:David Cameron
Likely Cameron: David Cameron
Of course, not my absolute first choice as PM – he’s in the wrong party for one thing. And ‘call me Dave’ isn’t a great PM, clearly not in charge of his own troops. But he’s not going anywhere – and better the devil you know…
My cabinet:Nick Clegg
Likely Cameron:Nick Clegg
While the recent leadership poll on this blog said (by a small majority) that we should have a new leader before the next election (and I notice someone from #slf was tweeting about the ‘post Clegg era’ on Saturday, which is slightly jumping the gun), Nick is in no immediate danger. Indeed, post Lords Reform he seems rather more secure than Cameron. His leadership may well get thrown up in the air again if we don’t secure either Lords Reform, or a stunning compensation (Vince for Chancellor). But he is safe for now.
My cabinet: Vince Cable
Likely Cameron:William Hague
So let’s all agree one thing. George is off. A disastrous budget, the economy tanking, and with the Tories requiring their “master Political strategist’ (ahem) to restore their fortunes in the polls, George will shortly be leaving No.11.
But who to replace him?
Well, there’s no doubt about the Lib Dems no.1 choice – Vince Cable. As Matthew Norman says, how many times DOES Vince have to be right before he’s made Chancellor. But it won’t be Vince. Partly because the Tory backbenchers will go bonkers if we get the lead role in the key part of the coalition agreement. Partly because the Tories see themselves as the masters of economic strategy (much like we see ourselves as masters of constitutional reform) and so they will want one of their own in charge. And partly because Vince is the lowest rated of all Cabinet Members amongst the Tory grass roots (strange but true)
So if it has to be a Tory, who gets the nod? Well, on this blog the clear winner was Ken Clarke. But I think we all know that’s not going to happen, don’t we? So Cameron will hunt for a safe pair of hands, popular in the country, very popular in the party, probably on the right. That’s William Hague. ‘He’s got no economic experience’ I hear you cry. Well, that didn’t get us far with Gideon, did it? And you forget – Hague ran an election campaign based on Save the Pound. With the Eurozone in meltdown, who better to ‘defend British economic interests’? (I know, I know, I just know what they’ll say…)
My cabinet: William Hague
Cameron Likely:Theresa May
As I moved Vince to No.11 I can leave Hague in the FCO, where, despite one or two misgivings I think he is doing an excellent job.
Sadly, the PM won’t have that luxury. So he’ll be casting around for a safe pair of hands. His eye, I suspect, will alight on Theresa May. Now of course, she is anything BUT a safe pair of hands. But she is now the longest serving Home Secretary since Blunkett and with the latest G4S debacle also landing at her door, and the police booing her at the last conference she spoke to them at, her time is surely up
The FCO requires an experienced and senior politician and and from a Cameron point of view this seems the perfect sinecure for Theresa
My cabinet:Ken Clarke
In the Cameron scenario I have the three most senior cabinet positions (after PM and DPM) moving. To that extent at least, this is Cameron’s ‘Night of the Long Knives’.
For the Lib Dems there is an obvious ‘first choice’ – Ken Clarke. He’s done it before, he’s handled the tricky ‘secret courts’ issue at Justice as well as anyone could, and there’s now the snooping bill to deal with at the Home Office.
But we know he’s blotted his copybook in Cameron’s eyes too many times and with Vince at No 11, would Cameron let another of the ‘big three’ jobs go to ‘the sixth liberal’.
So who gets it? I thought of Pickles – he’s has two years experience at Communities and Local Govt and this seems like an easy step to take.
No, I think HO is where Cameron will make the first of his promotions into the cabinet. It’s often overlooked that Willett’s attends cabinet, but isn’t a member of cabinet. He’s hugely respected, was a David Davis supporter in the Tory leadership campaign so is likely to be trusted by the Lib Dems on the snooping bill (which will matter to Cameron) and has broad appeal in the party. He probably is the safe pair of hands.
But in my cabinet, don't forget I have left Hague at the FCO. Which means in my cabinet, May is out.
Women & Equalities
My cabinet: Lynn Featherstone
Cameron Likely:Justine Greening
A new cabinet post, with Theresa May moving from the Home Office to the FCO (or out altogether), and I would make this a cabinet post (it is currently just a ministerial post, despite being held by May)
And of course there is an obvious candidate – Lynn Featherstone has done a wonderful job in the Undersecretary of State role. This would be well deserved promotion and a shrewd tactical move by Cameron.
I’m not sure he is that shrewd.
I think he will ‘promote’ the role. But he will use it as an opportunity to solve another problem. Justine Greening is a Tory MP who has to keep telling the Airlines that there will be no third runway at Heathrow. She has to because…she’s MP for Putney. But she’s careful not to rule it out after 2015, when we all think the Tories will have it in their manifesto.
So she has to be moved. She is seen as competent and popular. I think this is where she will end up.
My cabinet:Philip Hammond
Cameron Likely:Philip Hammond.
He’s not my cup of tea but he’s not been there long enough to move, and he’s done nothing wrong. No change here
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
My cabinet :Mark Hoban
Likely Cameron:Danny Alexander
Now let’s be clear – my preferred option is not to sack Danny and replace him with Mark Hoban. I think Danny has done a good job and one of my favourite coalition moments was when he floored Paxo on Newsnight by answering ‘yes’ to the question, ‘will the cuts go on after 2015?’ Brilliant. Chloe Smith, take note.
Danny also used to be my client at Britain in Europe so I wish him no ill will.
But if my preferred option for Chancellor is Vince, there’s no way that we’ll be allowed the top 2 jobs at the Treasury. We certainly wouldn’t allow it the other way.
So Danny has to make way and I’ve plumped for Mark Hoban – on the basis that he thinks banks should be allowed to fail, need generally sorting out, and appears to be on the side of the mutuals in terms of helping them to grow. He is the most competent Tory junior minister in the Treasury. I am prepared for others to tell me all sorts of dark secrets I don’t know about him though, to make me change my mind…
But fear not Danny. Cameron hasn’t got the guts to put Vince in to No.11, so you’ll be safe where you are.
You’re also all wondering about David Laws aren’t you…
Business, Innovation and Skills
My cabinet:David Laws
Cameron Likely:Vince Cable
I don’t think Cameron will do anything but leave Vince where is he. But if he were to move Vince to No. 11 – then isn’t this the place where David Laws is most likely to re emerge? He can’t go back to the ‘same‘ job he resigned from surely, this is close enough to the Treasury to make good use of his experience – and of course he is an ex investment banker, useful as the Department is likely to be heavily involved in regulation and restructuring of the banks. Makes perfect sense to me.
But in Cameron’s world – I think he has a different plan for David Laws…you’ll need to hang on a mo…
Work and Pensions
My cabinet:Iain Duncan Smith
Likely Cameron:Iain Duncan Smith
Too much going on, not gone badly enough wrong, I wouldn’t move IDS, even if I’m not big on his policy agenda. Neither will Cameron. A fight he doesn’t need to have.
Energy and Climate Change
My cabinet:Ed Davey
Cameron Likely:Ed Davey
Ed is doing a fine job, has done nothing to merit any change and hasn’t been there long enough anyway to change. Status quo all round
Communities and Local Government
My cabinet:Eric Pickles
Cameron Likely:Eric Pickles
I couldn’t move Eric, Cameron might even be tempted to promote him to the Home Office, a popular move with the right. But Eric will stay
My cabinet: Justine Greening
Cameron Likely:Theresa Villiers
I wouldn’t have put Greening in at transport anyway – the third runway is an accident waiting to happen for the MP for Putney. But as she is there, and doing a competent job, I’d probably leave her for now. But I’ve already said that I think Cameron will move her. So he’ll promote Theresa Villiers (who I am no fan of) into cabinet. A Heathrow fan and a London MP who will benefit from HS2, which (I think I am right in saying) skirts round her constituency.
My cabinet:Michael Gove
Cameron likely:David Laws
While I would leave Gove in place, despite the fact that he seems intent on forcing Free Schools on an unsuspecting world whether they like it or not, I don’t think Cameron will. I think Cameron must now see Gove as a threat – especially after the ‘O’ level announcement, a move designed to further enhance Gove’s reputation amongst the Tory faithful, and also Gove’s Leveson performance defending the press – surely a debt that will be repaid.
So Gove will pay the price for doing ‘too good a job’. But Cameron can’t sack him. He needs to move him into a position which can be dressed up as a promotion, of vital importance to this country’s future, but where he can do little harm. That’s coming next.
But meantime, who to put into Education? Well Gove’s success makes it hard for any Tory to follow him. The Lib Dems have been making all sorts of noises about Free Schools. And they want to bring the party’s former spokesman on Children, Schools and Families -who’s an Orange Booker, so not a bad ‘follow’ after Gove – back.
Bingo. David Laws
My cabinet:Michael Moore
Cameron likely:Michael Gove
Of course I wouldn’t move Michael Moore. He’s done an extremely accomplished job. So the status quo for me.
But if Cameron is to bring Laws back into the cabinet, he has to lose at least one Lib Dem. It’s not Clegg or Cable. Davey hasn’t been there long enough to move. It could be Danny – but if Cameron changes Chancellor and it’s not Vince, he has to leave Danny in place. So he’ll cast a baleful eye towards Michael Moore..
And then he’ll think what he needs in that role, with the key matter of Scottish Independence on the cards. Ideally a Scottish MP representing an English constituency (Gove). A politician who’s as wily and conniving as Alex Salmond (Gove). And who’s as in with Murdoch as Alex Salmond (Gove).
And the Union is of vital importance to the Tories – they are the Conservative and Unionist Party after all. So he can genuinely say he is trusting Gove with a position of vital constitutional importance. But one where it will be hard for Gove to score points with the mainly English Tory grass roots.
It all seems to fall very neatly into place for Cameron. I wonder if he’ll have the vision and the courage to do it?
Let’s not hope, for Michael Moore’s sake. He deserves better.
My cabinet:Cheryl Gillan
Cameron likely:Cheryl Gillan
No change, a fight nobody wants or needs
My cabinet;Owen Paterson
I wouldn’t move Owen Paterson, for all his nonsense about opposing equal marriage. Better to have him in the cabinet where you can control him then on the backbenches where he’s clearly going to be trouble. Cameron certainly won’t promote him, and won’t want to move him sideways. So we’ll both grit our teeth and leave him be.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
My cabinet:Jeremy Hunt
Cameron likely:Jeremy Hunt
Caroline Spelman has impressed no one - and so will move out. Spelman offers no political threat.
Jeremy Hunt needs moving. He may have survived for now but his presence in DCMS is a ticking time bomb.
But I think (and Cameron will certainly think) that he doesn’t want to be seen to be sacking Hunt after the Lib Dems failed to back him in the House (I’d have voted against by the way rather than abstaining).
EFR offers a suitable sideways move, plus Hunt is a rural MP, and this is a role in which he is unlikely to ruffle many feathers. I suspect Hunt would welcome this move.
Minister without Portfolio (Chairman of Tory Party)
My cabinet:George Osborne
Cameron likely:George Osborne
I think we all know this is going to happen, so why fight it. The only alternative to Osborne appears to be Grant Shapps – but I have another role for him in mind. And I think Cameron will still want Osborne close. Partly because he’s a friend. But mostly because he’s a rival.
My cabinet:Andrew Mitchell
Again, just doesn’t need to make a change. So he won’t.
Leader of the Lords
My cabinet:Lord Strathclyde
Cameron likely:Lord Strathclyde
I guess with the House of Lords Reform issue, Cameron may have some card up his sleeve. But I don’t think he’ll want to ruffle feathers on the red benches, so as you were.
My cabinet:Grant Shapps
Cameron likely:Grant Shapps
Lansley is out. He’s made too many political mistakes and enemies and having completed the NHS bill, it’s an easy change.
And this gives Cameron the perfect opportunity to promote an MP popular on the Tory backbenches. Again, I’m not Shapps biggest fan – but he is a more than competent minister and a high profile role supervising the implementation of legislation that’s already in place seems the right job for him right now.
My cabinet:Nick Herbert
Cameron likely: Oliver Letwin
We both need to make a decision (as I’ve moved Ken to the Home Office and I think Cameron will move him out altogether).
I’ve promoted the No. 2 in the department, Nick Herbert, as he works with the Home Office and as well as Ken at Justice, so this will be a seamless promotion. Of course I’d rather promote the ‘other’ No.2, Lord McNally – but I’ve already brought in two new LD’s including one extra cabinet post and so three would be a step too far.
But I think Cameron will do something different. He’ll take the opportunity of putting Letwin into full Cabinet (currently he just ‘attends’ Cabinet) – partly because I think he’ll want to give him a proper job, and partly because Osborne will want Letwin to give him a clear run on political and electoral strategy. This gets Letwin out of Osborne’s hair.
My cabinet:Ed Vaizey
Cameron likely: Ed Vaizey
We’ve both moved Hunt. We’ll promote one of the next in line. It’s a toss up between Hugh Robertson (Sport), John Penrose (Tourism) and Vaizey – who gets the nod because he specializes in media and that will continue to be the hot potato in this department, as Leveson draws to a close. Plus he also looks after creative industries, my area, so I’d like to see someone who understands my business in charge.
And that’s it. I think the remainder of folk attending but not in cabinet will remain unchanged.
It’s not perfect. In my cabinets I end up with two less woman than present (I lose May, Spelman and Warsi for Featherstone), Cameron loses one, overall (in Warsi and Spelman for Villiers), and that’s not good. But while I can find several Lib Dem women to promote (Teather is an obvious choice) I don’t think we have the seats to let one of them and Laws in (I already add Featherstone remember). Cameron has a different problem – peruse the ministerial lists and there are very few Tory women in post – he needs to sort that in this reshuffle, so he can promote more next time. Of course there may be obvious Tory women in PPS jobs or on the back benches who I have missed. We’ll see.
In my reshuffle we end up with 6 members of cabinet, thanks to Lynn getting a new portfolio. In Cameron’s more likely selection, we’re still at 5. In Cameron’s, we lose Michael Moore (however unfairly). In mine, again unfairly, we lose Danny Alexander , just because I want Vince as Chancellor – but fear not Danny, I don’t think Cameron will do that, so you’re safe. And even if he did, I imagine Nick will fairly quickly place you in charge of 2015 election strategy directly opposite Osborne. Which would be interesting…
OK everyone. WHAT SAY YOU?