Photo by Jake Lewis
This week’s cabinet reshuffle is being talked of as a biggie. Overall, David Cameron’s shuffling of his deck has dragged the government’s political centre of gravity to the right, and made the government slightly less of a boys’ club. This was seemingly personified by Ken Clarke, a man who likes jazz and is therefore seen as something of a progressive maverick in the Conservative Party, shuffling off the front bench to go watch more cricket.
Cabinet reshuffles seem to be the political equivalent of dropping some bad news on your boyfriend/girlfriend when they’re already pissed off at you for something. If you make all your inappropriate appointments of people with dubious histories and dodgy business connections at the same time, nobody will have time to digest all of it and they’ll forget what they were even supposed to be annoyed about. Still, here’s an attempt to make sense of some of it.
William Hague (Photo via)
Commentators are talking about William Hague stepping down being a big deal. Between the possibility of ISIS taking over the world and wondering if Ukraine will be ruled by the Kremlin or neo-Nazis, the career of this guy is not my biggest concern. Surely the more important thing here is that the man who takes his place is a steady hand on the tiller – someone who’s not going to rub some nuclear-armed despot up the wrong way over an AWOL Ferrero Rocher.
Philip Hammond (Photo via)
The replacement is Philip Hammond. The Telegraph has noted that, “In terms of his linguistic style, Mr Hammond is fond of apocalyptic, intense language. In a recent discussion of the banking crisis he declared that ‘the day of reckoning has come’.” I don’t know about you, but I totally think the guy who could be charged with trying to spread the peace vibes round the table with Israel and Iran should be conjuring elaborate metaphors about the End Times. He has also been an opponent of same-sex marriage, so I guess chastising Putin for all that gay-bashing is no longer our prerogative.
A cyclist riding through the floods in Somerset earlier this year. Only about a quarter of British people don't think that the floods were linked to climate change. (Photo by Jake Lewis)
You’d hope environmental ministers should be the type of people who take their family to music festivals powered by exercise bikes rather than carbon-heavy flights abroad – remember, if these guys screw up, we’ll probably all drown and/or die of thirst.
Greg Barker seemed like that kind of guy – a throwback to the huskie-hugging days of “Vote Blue, Go Green”, when there was an aspiration to form "the greenest government ever". So he's out. He’ll no longer be walking around Westminster as Climate Change Minister switching David Cameron’s lights off on bright days and demanding that George Osborne uses a mug instead of a disposable cup.
Liz Truss (Photo via)
Meanwhile, Cameron thought it’d be a really good idea to give the job to two people who think that renewable energy is for laughable hippies. Liz Truss, the new Environment Secretary, has called renewables “extremely expensive”. She has also called for a "rolling back" of green taxes because they're bad for jobs. To be fair, she should know, given that she used to work for Shell, famously an oil company no matter how many times they try to re-brand oil as “energy”.
Matthew Hancock (Photo via)
Fracking, meanwhile, she is very much for, so we can all look forward to a poisoned water supply and a few more years’ reliance on fossil fuels. New Energy Minster Matthew Hancock is a bit less neggy on windfarms, but still reckons they’re an eyesore. Maybe they are, and goodness knows that the right of people with sea-front apartments to their pristine view is as sacred as the right of future generations to breathable air, but there was me forlornly hoping the environment guys – if anyone – would be gunning for this stuff.
But don’t worry. Owen Patterson, the former Environment Secretary, didn’t believe in climate change either, and outgoing Energy Minister Michael Fallon also had the look of a man who’d rather frack the ground with a chemical enema rather than let another windfarm blight his field of vision. So really we’re no more or less likely to be killed by climate change induced extreme weather than we were at the beginning of the week.
A teacher who will be glad that Michael Gove is gone (Photo by Hannah Ewens)
While political cartoonists wept into their canvases, teachers have been running out of classrooms to high five each other in the corridors over the replacement of Michael Gove, who they mostly hate for giving them more hours and stagnating pay. However, he’s been replaced by Nicky Morgan who is described as a “safe pair of hands” and “less confrontational”. So basically someone who’s going to make sure that our kids all get classes in why British history is unfailingly glorious and the empire was a jolly good show, while actually being nice about it. She’s basically The Chap Olympics in ministerial form.
Also, she voted against same-sex marriage, in case you were hoping that the country’s young would be placed in the care of somebody who is not a homophobe. While we're at it, she's also now the Equalities Minister, but Cameron gave the job of implementing same-sex marriage reforms to a gay guy called Nick Boles. Presumably it gets a bit awkward when they bump into each other in the hall.
David Willetts in his ministerial car as it is blocked by angry students in May this year (Photo by Jake Lewis)
The now-graduated students who spent the winter of 2010 chanting “Willetts Out!” have finally got their wish, although he may have the last laugh as the commercialisation of higher education continues apace despite David taking his two brains to the back benches. In his place comes Greg Clarke, as the new Universities and Science Minister, a man who believes in homeopathy and whose appointment is therefore surely an attempt to keep Radio 4 comedians sweet now that Gove is gone.
Mark Harper (Photo via)
Mark Harper has been given a post at the DWP, which is pretty sneaky considering it was only February when he had to resign as Immigration Minister for employing an immigrant. He’s now Minister for Disabled People. The DWP is really determined to get as many disabled people as possible off benefits and into work, even if it kills them, so this time he can employ as many people he’s trying to torment as he likes and he’ll probably get a pat on the back rather than made to resign.