By Paul Goodman
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Cameron should be willing to move Hague and May in order to get Cable out of the Business portfolio and David Laws appointed in his place.
Most reshuffles don't matter. But this one does.
That is the premise of my piece in today's Daily Telegraph, though I also write that "if [David Cameron's Ministers] can't come up with the right policies for growth (and the Treasury's determination is in doubt) then shifting them about will make no difference".
With the boundary review lost and no economic recovery, the Prime Minister should throw the dice. He can't salvage the review. But he can go for growth – without the prospect of it, his 2015 chances will fade further. I set three conditions for recommendations:
- Change can't simply be imposed on the Liberal Democrats. Mr Cameron either now seeks to bust up the Coalition or doesn't. And if he doesn't (which he shouldn't – see the piece) he's in no positition to force his will on the LibDems.
- There's no point making recommendations Mr Cameron's already ruled out. In other words, it's a waste of breath suggesting that George Osborne leave the Treasury (which isn't a good idea anyway).
- Education and Welfare reform, the Government's flagship programme, still depends on Michael Gove and Iain Duncan Smith to steer it. So neither should be moved. To get a sense of what Gove still wants to achieve, see Matthew D'Ancona's column yesterday.
The key, as I put it in the Telegraph, is:
"…that replacing Mr Cable with a more business-friendly figure would help to boost growth medium-term, revive business confidence and send a signal to voters that the (700) Government is going for growth".
So I argue that Mr Cameron should:
- Move David Laws in to Business, as Tim Montgomerie has suggested, and winkle out Dr Cable by making him an offer that he (and Nick Clegg) can't reasonably refuse – namely, promoting him to become the first Liberal Home Secetary since Sir John Simon.
- Shift Theresa May to the Foreign Office, where William Hague's mission of restoring its standing has been completed. Since Mrs May's political aspirations may not yet be spent, she would perhaps be more responsive to the Euro-sceptic views of her party.
- Invite William Hague to Downing Street and beg him, on bended knee if necessary, to become Party Chairman as a last great service to the Party – to both gear it up for the coming election and share with Mr Osborne the shaping of party strategy.
I appreciate the problems. Dr Cable at the Home Office would mean no tough law and order policy, even if a Chris Grayling or a Nick Herbert were moved into the Justice Ministry. And Mr Hague might well politely tell the Prime Minister to get lost.
But the question is: what are the realistic – not the ideal – alternatives, given Mr Cameron's position (which is grim)? I quite like Tim's idea of moving Mr Gove into CCHQ, but it breaks my third rule. But either way, the Prime Minister needs radical options, and fast.