Tory/Lib Dem Coalition,  UK Politics

Responses to the (p)reshuffle

Although there have been several high profile departures from the cabinet – including Ken Clarke and David Willetts – it’s William Hague who has grabbed the headlines. Fraser Nelson reflects on the paradoxes of his career in the Telegraph:

There has been no shortage of overseas drama under this government: the decision to strike Libya, the debacle over Syria and the recalibrating of our relationship with the European Union.

But it’s hard to remember much that Hague has said about any of them. It’s a puzzle: the best wordsmith in the Cabinet has made few memorable speeches. The political obsessive who addressed the 1977 Tory conference aged 16 seems bored of one of the great offices of state.

George Eaton, writing in the New Statesman, claims that the reshuffle has culled the Tory left.

The departure of Clarke and Grieve, the two biggest Conservative supporters of the European Convention on Human Rights, paves the way for a Tory manifesto pledge to withdraw from the Strasbourg court’s jurisdiction. William Hague’s surprise resignation as Foreign Secretary has also shifted the cabinet’s centre of gravity to the right. …  He has been replaced by Philip Hammond, one of two cabinet ministers (along with Michael Gove) on record as saying that he would vote for Britain to leave the European Union were a referendum held today. The expected return of Liam Fox, a doctrinaire Thatcherite, will further bolster the right

But the Spectator’s Isabel Hardman suggests the reshuffle is more likely to change the cabinet’s gender balance than its political complexion:

You cannot call a reshuffle in which arch moderniser and lover of greenery Greg Barker departed a lurch to the left. But you also cannot brand it a lurch to the right when eurosceptics are upset that Owen Paterson has been sacked. …

And while it is true that expected promotions for Liz Truss and Priti Patel show the rise of the free market right wingers from the intellectually robust 2010 intake, others such as Anna Soubry who are expected to move up would not easily identity with the right of the party. Soubry is better known for her pro-immigration attacks on Nigel Farage (and within the party for her colourful language while relaxing in the Smoking Room with Simon Burns) than anything else.

I very much agree with James Bloodworth that, while it would of course be welcome to see more women in the parliament, there are other groups that are also under represented.

Having a Commons chamber that is split 50/50, with one half made up of middle class men and the other middle class women, is certainly an improvement on the current state of affairs, but it would remain grossly unreflective of life outside of Parliament.

When Margaret Thatcher swept to power in 1979, 40 per cent of Labour MPs had worked in some kind of manual or clerical job before they entered parliament. Yet by 2010 that figure had plummeted to just 9 per cent.

It’s possible that changes to the labour market account for some of the change, but the extent to which parliament is becoming the preserve of the middle and upper classes is evident in other data too.

And finally, legal blogger Jack of Kent makes some interesting observations about what the reshuffle suggests about Cameron’s attitude towards law(yers). He notes that Cameron has sacked just about every lawyer in the cabinet, and connects this to several other recent moves: restrictions on judicial review, the cuts to legal aid and of course the forcing through of DRIP.