Hague and Osborne emerge strengthened from the reshuffle. George Osborne is now to Cameron what Brown was to Blair with significant responsibilities for General Election strategy. Hague’s old PPS David Lidington becomes his Number 2 in a significant strengthening of the foreign affairs team. David Lidington, who will still attend shadow cabinet and will be missed by the NI Conservatives, will effectively be Hague’s CEO with Hague undertaking more campaigning. David Davis is slightly diminished by the reshuffle with Nick Herbert, Sayeeda Warsi and Pauline Neville-Jones all taking chunks from his empire. The other big beast – Liam Fox – remains in post.
Caroline Spelman goes to CCHQ but as the Harriet Harman Chair. With George Osborne taking on General Election planning the Party Chairman’s role is smaller for Caroline Spelman than it was for Francis Maude (who is very unhappy at having to leave CCHQ). A bit like Harriet Harman being Labour Chair and Douglas Alexander being General Election coordinator. At the top of her in-tray will be the need to reconnect the party leadership with the grassroots. I am not optimistic she is the right person to be able to do this but I hope I’m wrong and wish her luck.
This was a reshuffle for women. Promotions for Caroline Spelman, Theresa Villiers (to Transport), Sayeeda Warsi and Pauline Neville-Jones are signs of David Cameron’s determination to feminise the shadow cabinet. Seven of 29 shadow cabinet members are women (including Baroness Anelay when she succeeds Lord Cope).
Balls versus Gove is the most delicious match-up. Education policy and family are set to be central issues in this Parliament and David Cameron’s decision to put Michael Gove, his own intellectual defender, up against the PM’s Ed Balls at schools and family will be a fascinating clash of two great minds. The hawkish Gove is, however, kept away from a foreign affairs brief because…
Pauline Neville-Jones and Sayeeda Warsi’s appointments signal the return of realpolitik/ the establishment view on foreign policy. James Forsyth has two excellent posts explaining why on the Spectator blog. Warsi has spoken foolishly about Britain being a police state and Pauline Neville-Jones was part of the Hurd-Rifkind establishment view during the 1992-1997 period of deadly non-intervention. Thank goodness we have Kouchner and Sarkozy over the Channel.
Owen Paterson’s appointment is a nod to the right. Gordon Brown uses the Northern Ireland post to reward Tory defectors and David Cameron uses the post to try and keep Cornerstone happy. Owen Paterson did great work as shadow roads minister and I hope that work will not be lost.
The ones that were not promoted. Dominic Grieve can be most disappointed. One of the nicest and most able men in politics he was an obvious choice for the Justice post (although Nick Herbert will likely do well there). Ed Vaizey did not get the promotion many expected. If talent and diligence were the key qualifications for promotion you would expect Greg Clark, Paul Goodman and John Hayes to be around the top table but they are not.
Cameron did not have to shed much blood. Cameron has not only matched Gordon Brown’s Cabinet (an enlargement on the Blair Cabinet) but he also has Dame PNJ in his 29-strong team for the homeland security brief. The only casualties were Oliver Heald and Hugo Swire. I’m not sure if they’ll get junior frontbench jobs. We’ll know tomorrow.
Team Cameron want us to see this as the ‘new talent’ reshuffle. CCHQ is emphasising the promotions for Michael Gove, Nick Herbert and Jeremy Hunt from the 2005 intake.
Does David Cameron intend to hit Brown hard on pensions? Chris Grayling’s move to Work and Pensions may signal an intention to make pensions a big election issue. Mr Grayling has an enormous appetite for campaigning (including the negative variety) and expect an onslaught on Gordon Brown’s record on pensions. Let’s hope so anyway.
10.30pm related link: Fraser Nelson has his own ten thoughts