“David Cameron has often been contemptuous of Ed Miliband’s Shadow Cabinet, mocking their lack of experience, blandness and low profile. It is interesting then that he has made his Cabinet much more like the Labour alternative – removing larger than life familiar characters, axing experience, and making appointments on grounds which previous Tory leaders would have dismissed as political correctness.
Like many past Conservative Prime Ministers, he may have thought that promoting his Defence Secretary to fill a vacancy at the Foreign Office was logical and uncontroversial. However, for the first time in half a century we now have a Foreign Secretary who has openly said that the UK might be better off out of the EU. That might produce fireworks in months to come.”
Tim Collins, Chairman, Bell Pottinger Political
“Reshuffles are messy and produce a combination of accidental and deliberate outcomes. It is hard to imagine that Philip Hammond was a first choice Foreign Secretary but we now have one who is prepared to say we should quit the EU if we don’t get the concessions we want. By all accounts IDS refused to move to the MoD, so the extremely competent Michael Fallon gets in the Cabinet – just as No 10 is (allegedly) trying to purge it of grey, middle aged men.
Since Sir George Young’s departure was widely expected, Michael Gove must have been the first choice for the Whips Office, a triumph for the pollsters in No 10 who argued that his combative style in DES was putting off women. Likewise, the brilliant Nicky Morgan’s elevation to Education – her second substantial promotion in just eight months – marks her out as Cameron’s preferred woman minister.
Jonathan Hill’s move to Europe – he shares the Cameron view that the UK must remain in the EU but on better terms – confirms No 10’s nervousness about an unnecessary by-election. But as Janan Ganesh pointed out in his FT column this morning, what is the express ideological purpose of these changes? I would say a typically Cameron affair.”
Charles Lewington, Managing Director, Hanover Communications
“Inevitably this reshuffle has been defined by the promotion of women. It’s welcome that women will have a greater presence in the Cabinet but disappointing that the Prime Minister has waited until so late in the Parliament to address the underrepresentation of women at the highest levels of government. This needed to happen far earlier, and to wait until less than year from the general election makes the Prime Minister’s reshuffle feel too much like a nod in the right direction to appeal to the electorate rather than the start of a sustained change in the make-up of government.
There will undoubtedly be surprise that Michael Gove has been moved from the Department for Education. He has overseen a series of controversial reforms since 2010, and it’s possible the Prime Minister is now looking to Nicky Morgan as a less controversial, safe pair of hands to calm the raised voices in the education sector ahead of the election, in a similar way to Andrew Lansley being replaced by Jeremy Hunt after the contentious Health and Social Care Act.”
Emma Carr, Managing Director, the Whitehouse Consultancy
“In the widest ranging reshuffle of this government, many Conservative Party grandees have now been put out to pasture, with the most impressive of the 2010 intake rising up to take their place. Although much of the focus in on the PM’s attempts to win over more women voters, with Liz Truss and Nicky Morgan being the day’s biggest winners, it is also worth noting that the government has been purged of many of the ‘soft-right’ Tories who were held in such little esteem by the grass-roots.
The most significant move of the day, however, is Lord Hill’s nomination as the UK’s Commissioner in Brussels. If confirmed, then the former Leader of the House of Lords is likely to stay in situ for far longer than any of the ministers who are dominating today’s news cycle, and will play a hugely influential role in re-negotiating the UK’s relationship with the EU.”
Laura Blake, Director, Connect Communications
“The Prime Minister’s intent is pretty clear – with less than a year left on the electoral clock, he wants to improve how the Government presents its record. So baggage is being dumped, whether that’s confrontational ministers such as Gove, or relics of the Thatcher era such as Clarke and Young; and problem areas are being addressed, most notably the absence of mothers around the Cabinet table. In many ways, it’s a PR man’s reshuffle, recognising that actions don’t speak for themselves – they need advocates. But the PM is, after all, a PR man, so maybe that shouldn’t be a great surprise.”
Francis Ingham, Director General, PRCA
“Despite extensive pre-briefing, this week’s reshuffle still had the power to surprise Westminster watchers, with retirement announcements from William Hague and David Willetts, an unlikely move for Michael Gove and an EU Commissioner nomination that few saw coming. Yet most of this will be of fleeting interest to the British public at best, and will have little impact on polls in the short term.
Yet this is a canny reshuffle that will sink into the public consciousness nonetheless. With a markedly fresher team (three 2010 intake MPs coming into Cabinet for the first time) and a shift from grey-haired men to younger women, the optics of the Party will be improved. No less important will be the continuation of Cameron’s centralising of power. With a crop of inexperienced Secretaries of State, and Gove and Hague in roles at the centre, Cameron will finally have the strong grip on his departments that he has long needed. Both will be important in the next nine months ahead of the General Election.
Reshuffles don’t change the political weather, but in a close election, this one will have done his chances no harm.”
Joshua Peck, Managing Director, MHP Communications
“With so little time before next year’s general election, these newly-appointed Ministers will be fully aware that they are being offered no time to make tangible policy changes. The Prime Minister is instead putting in place a young, energetic and loyal team to win in 2015 and beyond. There are more women and regional accents, and the average age of those leaving is about a decade more than the newcomers. The Tories believe their austerity message more palatable coming from Minsters fitting this description.
Notably, many of the appointees, like Priti Patel and Penny Mordaunt have media and PR experience. So we can expect them to be on message, toe the party line, and support Michael Gove’s redefined role as the combative face of the party to the press. We shouldn’t be too cynical though – appointees like Liz Truss have impeccable credentials and have been long tipped as rising stars.”
Tim Knight, Senior Account Manager, PLMR