By Tim Montgomerie
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Over the next 48 hours we'll begin to reflect on the significance of the reshuffle. You've had mine and Paul's immediate, Tweeted reactions. We'll now try and offer something a little more considered.
First of all, though, I must publicly thank Matthew Barrett who has been keeping the rolling blogs up-to-date throughout the day. As I've been speaking to MPs and ministers throughout the day I know that they've been using the blogs to keep up-to-speed. Great job, Matthew, thanks.
So big observation one is that David Cameron has moved decisively to address two of the big weaknesses in his top team. Last year polling from Lord Ashcroft found that health and crime were the two most important areas of policy where there was a big gap between the Coalition and target voters. The PM has identified the two solutions — Chris Grayling as Justice Secretary and Jeremy Hunt as Health Secretary.
Even The Telegraph has described Chris' promotion as a "sop to the Right". Nonsense. Other polling from Michael Ashcroft showed that 80% of the public holds so-called "right-wing" views on prisons policy. Ken Clarke was with the 20% and he constantly upset Britain's best-read newspapers, notably The Sun, Mail and Express. The new Justice Secretary will be limited in what he can do on prison numbers (because of budgets) and human rights law reform (because of the LibDems and Dominic Grieve) but at least he'll be able to use language that resonates with the public rather than antagonises them. The new Lord Chancellor is also committed to the rehabilitation revolution. There'll be no retreat from the incarcerate AND educate philosophy that Nick Herbert did the ground-breaking early work on. [Can I echo the words of James Forsyth at this point? – Nick's departure from the frontbench is a real loss].
Then there's the appointment of Jeremy Hunt to Health Secretary. Paul Goodman recommended this some time ago but before Mr Hunt had his Murdoch-related difficulties. Noone expected Cameron to promote a minister who was so embattled so recently but the PM has shown that he's not afraid of the press pack. He's made it clear that he, not the scribblers, will decide appointments. He refused to bow to the media calls for him to be sacked as Culture Secretary. Jeremy Hunt then proved his credentials in helping to deliver a very successful London Olympics. And now the PM has decided to appoint one of the Government's best communicators – especially in small groups – to a job that is only going to get an awful lot more sensitive as the election approaches. This small groups skill is particularly important in the health service where a lot of healing of important relationships is necessary after the bruising row over the NHS reforms.
To close the gap between the Coalition and the public on crime Cameron has chosen a fighter. To close the health gap Cameron has appointed a conciliator. Two good calls.