In nautical terms, for his first Cabinet reshuffle David Cameron has tacked to starboard – or right for you landlubbers – and deserves acclaim for doing so, especially as it maroons the squelchy-wet Lib-Dumbs (sorry, slip of the pen; meant to say Dems), still farther adrift at sea.
The new deck also signals the Prime Minister’s post-General Election intentions should he be returned to office in 2015 without the need to cling onto the wreckage of Nick Clegg’s lot, even if Captain Dave swears on a stack of bibles he has no intention of breaching the existing Coalition agreement.
Justine Greening’s switch from Transport to the wilderness of International Development is a clear indication something is afoot, apropos a third runway at Heathrow.
Commercially, if not environmentally – a word you don’t hear muttered overmuch nowadays – it might cause London mayor Boris Johnson to bristle, but it makes absolute common sense if Britain is to remain the gateway to Europe and reap the trade benefits that brings.
Greening’s successor, Patrick McLoughlin, a tough, blue-collar Tory from a mining-cum-farming constituency in the Derbyshire Dales, isn’t likely to be phased by irate NIMBYs blocking the M4 in protest over expansion at London’s main airport.
And Chris Grayling, who replaces Ken Clarke at Justice – Clarke remaining in Cabinet as Minister without Portfolio, a decent sop to his peerless experience – is a pragmatist who’ll put down the liberal judiciary if they get lippy and, hopefully, tell the EU meddlers where to stick their Human Rights blathering when it contradicts British law.I can’t work out whether Andrew Lansley’s move to Leader of the House from Heath, where Jeremy Hunt takes the bridge, is a demotion or promotion, after all he’s done in trying to reform the dinosaur of the NHS.
And Hunt’s elevation from Culture, Media & Sport is even odder. After the multiple cock-ups he committed over the Murdoch Sky TV bid, many commentators were betting he was for the chop. However, maybe his unctious bravery, acting as Cameron’s human shield before the Leveson phone-hacking enquiry, has earned him an extra stripe.
Still, I don’t fancy the future health of the Health Ministry under his stewardship.
And so onto a few others…former joint-Tory Party chairperson, Sayeeda Warsi’s shift to a down-table seat in the Foreign Office is a surefire demotion, though she’ll still attend Cabinet as Minister for Faith and Communities.
In contrast, Grant Shapps transfer from Housing to party chairmanship as another Minister without Portfolio is decidedly a promotion.
In general and despite still having to partially share the helm with the dead hand of the Lib-Dumbs (sorry Dems…must be a glitch in the computer) Cameron’s shake-up is positive and encouraging.
He clearly wants some true, blue-sky thinking in place before 2015, even though he hasn’t stuck to his guns and elevated more women (in fact, he jettisoned two: Caroline Spelman and Cheryl Gillan).
Finally, the only positive in the reshuffle for Clegg is David Law rejoining the government as a minister in the Department for Education, after the former Chief Secretary to the Treasury resigned barely two weeks after the formation of the Coalition after breaching expenses rules.
So how will the mixed complement of two crews with conflicting ideologies fair over the next three years before a General Election now that the Tories have tacked harder Right?
Personally, I still don’t see the good ship Coalition going the distance and a shipwreck looms somewhere over the horizon.