Cabinet Reshuffle: Ringing the changes but not necessarily the right ones – Liberal Article
It has been a long time coming but the reshuffle has finally taken place. Politics in the UK is crying out to move on from Brexit and the pandemic; the new cabinet is hopefully the first step towards this. Boris Johnson’s manifesto was based on the idea of ‘levelling up’ and now is the time to deliver. This has to begin now. Failure to do so could see the return on the northern red wall in the next election.
My colleague Max Anderson wrote a piece prior to the last reshuffle; three big recommendations were made. Raab, Patel and Hancock to go. One since departed the cabinet but the other two remained. Unfortunately, they have once again managed to stay in the cabinet. Patel should have been the first name to go; I cannot understand the PM’s decision to keep her time and time again. It appears there is nothing she can do that will convince Johnson to get rid of her. As for Raab, a promotion of sorts as a reward for his success with Afghanistan…not! The way he dealt with the situation is just one of several reasons why he should be removed but alas he is set to be a key member of this new cabinet.
As for those who did go, Gavin Williamson’s time in the education department is over. Let’s be honest, this is no surprise. He had the lowest approval rating in the cabinet and his recent mix-up between Rashford and Itoje epitomises his time in office. In terms of other less important outgoings, there are a few that I believe should feel hard done by. To name a couple, Robert Buckland and Caroline Dineage for Justice and Digital, Culture, Media and Sport respectively, appear to have been ousted to find room for others. They have done little wrong in their time in office and arguably deserved longer. When Buckland’s departure was announced reporters described the situation well – he was hardworking but expendable.
So, what about the other new faces in the cabinet and those with new positions? Firstly, the newcomers. I am glad to see that Nadhim Zahawi has been given a chance in the cabinet as Education Secretary. A couple of months ago, my colleague Kieran argued his case to be health secretary following his success as the vaccine minister; I disagreed but said his time would come at the next reshuffle, so I am glad to see this happen. Another interesting move is the introduction of Nadine Dorries at Culture. I have my reservations bearing in mind her stance on the BBC. Whilst I do not want to pass judgement yet, I believe she will try to force change quickly.
At the top of the list of ministers shuffling positions is Liz Truss. Arguably, she was not strong enough in her role as secretary for women and equalities, as trade secretary she was fairly successful. This I believe is key to why she has been appointed to the foreign office. Truss is by many seen as a future leader of the party and success in her role could see her catapulted into pole position. Additionally, I am pleased that Oliver Dowden has been retained as his time as culture secretary was relatively successful.
My final thoughts about the new cabinet are contradicting. This reshuffle has positives in the form of Truss, Zahawi and the removal of Williamson, however, I cannot get over my disappointment at the fact Patel and Raab remain. For the rest of the cabinet it is a case of waiting to see how they get on before judging; for Patel and Raab I know whatever happens their decisions are not going to be positive.
Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Fletcher Kipps.
Point of Information
Mixed Reactions – A Conservative Response
Fletcher’s mixed feelings on the new cabinet are some I share. Patel remaining in the cabinet is a mistake. She is failing to combat the illegal crossings at the coast, despite her fiery rhetoric. She has also committed a number of scandals during her time as Home Office Secretary. Why she has not been replaced I am unsure.
Looking at Dominic Raab, I share the confusion at his promotion of sorts. He does not deserve to be fired over Afghanistan. Yet the event weakened his position, especially so close to the reshuffle. So moving him down to Justice Secretary makes some sense. This less prominent role will mean he is out of sight. But being promoted to deputy prime minister is not right. He certainly has done nothing to earn it. Reports suggest that Raab wouldn’t accept Justice unless he became deputy, and Johnson capitulated to this demand. This is not good governance, Johnson should have stuck to his guns. Alas, he did not.
The only possible reason for this repositioning, other than his refusal to go, is the successful negotiating of the AUKUS alliance with the US and Australia. This is a brilliant alliance between two close countries and will serve the UK well strategically.
Liz Truss was the obvious choice for Raab’s replacement. Her success as Trade Secretary negotiating various trade deals (most notably with Australia) has paid off, and I hope she continues to do well.
Finally, education. Thankfully Williamson has been removed. He has performed abysmally during COVID and needed to be outed. But is Nadhim Zahawi the right replacement? As Fletcher rightly states, I argued that he deserved a cabinet position, but education is not the right post for him. Kemi Badenoch would have made an ideal replacement. Her experience as equalities minister would have been perfect for the role, especially after the equality report into equality in education was released. She also has prior experience as an undersecretary in education.
However, Zahawi should not be immediately discounted. He will surely do well in education. The others I have not mentioned I will not pass judgement on, and merely wait to see how they perform in their respective roles. This reshuffle did not deliver fully on my hopes and predictions, however there were some positives in it.
Written by Co-Conservative Chief, Kieran Burt
Patel and Gove the standout stories of the reshuffle – A Labour Response
For me, the two most interesting appointments Johnson has made with this reshuffle are that of Gove and Patel. These two figures have been trusted to handle two of the key promises of the Conservative manifesto; namely a reduction of migration to the UK, and the ‘levelling up agenda’ which seeks to revitalise the UK’s economy in the wake of Covid-19 and Brexit. My dislike for the politics of Priti Patel is severe. At the most basic level, I think her treatment of asylum seekers, and the way she conducts herself in her department (if rumours are true) is unacceptable. These topics are well documented, and I feel that by making yet another moral appeal I will achieve very little.
In place of that, let us assess Priti Patel’s performance thus far. She has clashed with the Crown Prosecution Service; she was told that her plans to introduce a 4-year jail sentence for those who enter the UK without an entry clearance would not be carried out and that only those who are indicted with charges of people trafficking will face prosecution. The statements made by the CPS and many lawyers involved with migration and asylum law made it clear that they thought the policy touted by Patel would do nothing other than to punish victims who had already suffered enough.
More recently, she called upon the Royal Navy to physically guide boats back to Europe’s shores. This policy has been accused of violating the Geneva Convention, and Patel’s only retort was the technicality that the Geneva Convention only applies to people fleeing immediately from a warzone. She is, of course, aware that due to the history of Britain’s widespread empire many of these people have English (to varying degrees albeit) as a second language. As such Britain is a natural destination for them when attempting to rebuild and recover after severe emotional and physical trauma. The fact that Boris Johnson has placed his faith in a politician so ready to part with the idea of human rights is extremely concerning. For me, it speaks volumes about the direction the current crop of conservative politicians is headed.
Appointing Michael Gove, a man who has had more cabinet positions in the past ten years than I have had hot dinners, to some will seem like a smart move. He is vastly experienced and perhaps he will deliver in his new role as Minister for Housing. It is important to remember, however, that the levelling up agenda was a huge part of breaking Labour’s red wall in the North of England. A clip of Michael Gove speaking at a debating conference whilst at Cambridge has recently resurfaced. In it, he labels Northerners ‘dirty and toothless’. I obviously don’t think that Michael Gove still holds the same pompous views he proclaimed amongst his university mates back in 1987, however it certainly builds pressure for him to deliver.
Other journalists have already highlighted how the levelling-up funds and their allocation has an element of Pork barreling (shock!), and how this may damage relationships with voters if favouritism and cronyism are present. I think the levelling-up plan is wrong. Local council and mayoral control of funds would produce far greater advancement in the left-behind areas of the North, Midlands and South West. However, I shall reserve full judgement for now. I have severe doubts as to whether Gove is dynamic and focused enough to oversee a nationwide levelling up and to finally solve the cladding crisis, but time will tell.
By Senior Labour Writer, Henry McKeever.