Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and the For the Many podcast with Jacqui Smith.
I write this just as Matt Hancock is announcing which areas of the country are going into which tiers from next week. I’m afraid the Government have got this completely wrong.
I agree with strengthening the measures in the tiers, but using counties as the geographical criteria is just barking mad.
Take my own county of Kent – where we are being put into Tier Three, despite most of the county having very low rates of infection. Indeed, the borough I live in has one of the lowest infection rates in the country.
Yet the Medway Towns – especially the borough of Swale – are dragging down the rest of the county into the top tier. The fact is that people who live south of the M20 do not often venture north of it.
Similarly, North Devon is in Tier Two despite the rate of infection being one of the lowest in the country – even lower, I’m told, than neighbouring Cornwall, which is in Tier One. Surely, as Damian Green and Greg Clark have suggested, it would be far more sensible to divide the country up into district council areas?
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When there’s nothing else to write about, so the saying goes for political journos, a nice little speculative story about a reshuffle never goes amiss. No one ever looks back and holds your words against you, even when you get it spectacularly wrong.
On Monday, Rachel Sylvester had a go at predicting what Boris Johnson might do in a pre or post Christmas reshuffle. She touted Sajid Javid for the Foreign Office with Dominic Raab moving to the Cabinet Office, with Michael Gove replacing Priti Patel at the Home Office, who would then take on the party chairmanship.
The flaw in this argument is that there would then be no woman holding any of the great offices of state. No doubt in order to persuade Patel that she wasn’t being demoted, the role of the Party Chairman would have to enhanced and reimagined.
As I’ve written before, back in the day the job was considered to be the best job to have outside the top three. Those days are long gone, but perhaps with the right person in the job they could return.
Sylvester also touted Jeremy Hunt to replace Gavin Williamson at education. I’ve heard worse ideas, and in many ways he would fit the job like a hand in a glove.
But would he take it? It’s a bit of a comedown from travelling the world as Foreign Secretary, and you get the feeling he’s quite enjoying his life outside tovernment, chairing the Health Select Committee. Home Secretary might be more of a pull. It would be difficult to turn down a great office of state.
The problem the Prime Minister has is that there is little point in having a big, meaningful reshuffle if there isn’t much new talent available to replace the Cabinet dead wood. And if you look down the list of ministers of state, well, without being unkind, there aren’t many of them who you automatically think would do any better than those currently clinging on to their cabinet roles. Kit Malthouse, Penny Mordaunt and Kwasi Kwarteng would be the three prime candidates for promotion, in my view.
With the departure of Messers Cummings and Cain, Boris Johnson would do well to promote several ministers who are good media performersm and make ir clear that going out and explaining government policy on the airwaves is one of the prime tasks of Cabinet ministers – on the basis that if they don’t do it, no one else will.
On that criteria, Kemi Badenoch, Gillian Keegan, Victoria Atkins, Victoria Prentis, Jo Churchill, Chris Philp and Robin Walker ought to be given more prominent, public-facing roles.
In my opinion, the role of the Cabinet Office should be recast, with at least two ministers appointed whose roles would be to be Ministers for Radio and TV – the ministerial equivalents of Allegra Stratton.
Communication is everything in modern government, You can have the best policies in the history of politics, but if no one knows about them, or if the Opposition succeed in their attempts to portray them negatively, it’s all for nothing.