Cabinet Reshuffle: What Does it Mean?

Cabinet Reshuffle: What Does it Mean?

The word from political journalists last night and this morning was simple; if you’re a ‘male, pale and stale’ member of the cabinet, don’t expect to have a job by this afternoon. If you happened to be a Euro-moderate as well you had no chance. At the same time, if you were part of the

CAMERON_2332202bThe word from political journalists last night and this morning was simple; if you’re a ‘male, pale and stale’ member of the cabinet, don’t expect to have a job by this afternoon. If you happened to be a Euro-moderate as well you had no chance. At the same time, if you were part of the 2010 female Conservative intake and hadn’t caused too much trouble, chances are you were getting promotion. This by and large was the case. However, very few people expected the removal of senior members of the cabinet such as Foreign Secretary William Hague and Education minister Michael Gove. So what does this reshuffle actually mean?

1. It wasn’t the ‘rise of women’ that No. 10 suggested

Depending on the situation, around 34 ministers have the possibility of attending cabinet meetings. After today’s reshuffle, 6 of them are women (7 if you include the new Leader of the House of Lords). This equates to fewer than 18%… a long way short of the 1/3 David Cameron said he wanted in his cabinet back in 2010. This a shocking statistic unfortunately merely serves to highlight that women make up only 23% of the House of Commons. In comparison, the National Assembly for Wales currently has 25 female AMs (42%)– proof that it’s possible to have greater equality in British political institutions. Downing Street affectively shot themselves in the foot from the moment they started describing the reshuffle as the rise of the women. The PM wanted to promote more women, that’s fantastic, but the fact that he felt like he had to make it a thing invariably highlighted how few women there were in the cabinet. As Fraser Nelson pointed out there is “something horribly tokenistic, and faintly misogynistic, about boasting about what percentage of women you have in the Cabinet – as if this is a sign of how ‘progressive’ you are”.[1]

2. William Hague is retiring/Michael Gove is moving

In what turned out to be the biggest surprise of the day, Angelina Jolie’s BFF William Hague has moved from the Foreign Office to become Leader of the House and is replaced by Philip Hammond. Hague has been in parliament for 26 years and has decided 2015 is the time to step down. Likewise, the most hated man in the playground Michael Gove has left Education to become Chief Whip. While both were pretty major moves, they both come at the right time before next year’s general election. Gove certainly won’t be following the usual Chief Whip role of avoiding the media, instead he’ll be all over it. Be prepared to hear him a lot in the hallowed 8:10 interview slot on Radio 4’s Today programme. Similarly, Hague’s new role will allow him time to travel across the campaigning for Tory support before next May’s General Election.

3. Rise of the Eurosceptics

The departure of a number of Europhiles such as Ken Clarke, Dominic Grieve and Damien Green and the promotion of a number of Eurosceptic MPs (especially Philip Hammond) highlights a shift to the right in terms of the government’s view on Europe. Having the Eurosceptic Hammond in the foreign office certainly shows intent but might not be as promising as some on the right would hope.

P.S. – Lord Hill, Leader of the House of Lords, has been nominated as the UK’s next European Commissioner. Largely unknown outside the Westminster bubble and fiercely loyal to the PM, it could be a shrewd move. The Lib Dems will shuffle their pack in the next few weeks.


[1] http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/fraser-nelson/2014/07/camerons-reshuffle-is-promoting-women-yes-but-its-patronising-them-too/

Image: The Telegraph 

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