Roger and his views > Reshuffle
Gale`s View – 23rd July 2014
 
By the time that this reaches the news stands parliament will, unless calls for us to remain sitting to discuss events flowing from the appalling destruction of flight MH17 over Ukraine have prevailed, be in recess. As the dust settles on the recent re-shuffle of Conservative Government Ministers (Conservative only because Mr. Clegg elected to leave his entire team in place) it is, perhaps, time to take stock of both the process and the outcome.
 
Weeks before  John Major`s last reshuffle my then boss, Archie (now Lord) Hamilton , told me that, after years as Minister of State in the Defence Department and more years still as Margaret Thatcher`s Parliamentary Private Secretary, he would be standing down.  I mention this because the “popular” press generally likes to refers to Ministers under the “out” column as “sacked” and I know from personal experience that there are both men and women who come to the realisation that there is a life outside and beyond the world of the Whitehall Village, red boxes and Ministerial cars where real life is lived and who choose to say “Thank you, but no thank you.”
 
Kent has lost two Ministers in Damian Green, who has courteously and diligently contributed more than his fair share as Minister of State in the Home Office,  and Hugh (now and rightly Sir Hugh) Robertson who had a splendid innings as the Sports Minister and who will, come the General Election, no doubt be moving on to other and greater challenges.  To make way for fresh blood even good Ministers have to step aside leaving perplexed colleagues sometimes saying “why?” and the partners of those replaced  saying  “Does this mean that I will get my husband back”? 
 
On the upwardly mobile front it is correct and fitting that my parliamentary neighbour and friend Julian Brazier should have had his years of service to the armed forces and in particular his support for the Territorials and the Cadet Forces recognised by an appointment as a Minister in the Defence Department.  Under  a system that has historically been rather good at trying to slam square pegs into round holes Julian will not only fit but be trusted and respected for a grasp of his subject honed over many years of commitment.
 
Sevenoaks  MP Michael Fallon`s skill and efficiency in a number of Ministerial offices and most recently as Minister of State in the Vincent Cable-led Department of Business,  will have proved useful as he moves into position as Secretary of State for Defence at a particularly sensitive time both at home and abroad. Michael has described the Defence brief as “an awesome responsibility”, commenting that “the horrific scenes that we witnessed last week when Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 came down in Eastern Ukraine remind us that we live in an increasingly unpredictable and fragile world”.  I would wish him luck but Michael does not rely upon luck to achieve his objectives. He prefers to depend upon hard-headed reality and hard work.
 
Looking as the broader picture one liberal member of the BBC`s commentariat has observed tartly that the Prime Minister still only has a Cabinet accommodating 25% women as against the 33% that was his objective. More pragmatically, the Secretary of State for Transport, the former coal miner Patrick McLoughlin, reminded the aforesaid presenter, a man who so far as I am aware has never been elected to any public office in his life, that the Conservatives did not win the last General Election and that in coalition it was necessary for Mr. Cameron to give some Departments, that otherwise might have gone to still more Conservative women, to Liberal Democrats! 
 
What is more striking, perhaps, is the manner in which the tabloid press, that bastion of free speech and diversity, has chosen to focus upon the “Ministerial catwalk” and commented on the flow of young and talented women through the doors of 10 Downing Street as a fashion parade rather than recognising the very considerable achievements of Members of Parliament who, in some cases, were first elected only in 2010.  To be asked to head up a major Department of State, such as Education or the Environment,  after just four years in the House is no mean feat and it is a sadness that newspapers that claim to appeal to women cannot bring themselves to recognise that simple fact.
 
Newly-appointed Ministers now have a few weeks` breathing space in which to master the briefs for which they have to take responsibility immediately upon appointment. There may be little legislative time left between now and May 2015 during which those assigned to Cabinet and more junior Ministerial posts will be able to put their stamp upon Government but in this reshuffle David Cameron has clearly set out the shape and style of the administration that he will hope to lead if he is re-elected with a Conservative majority at the next General Election. Whether the “middle aged men” (to quote a Daily Mail headline) who still preside over most of what remains of Fleet Street like it or not it has to be a good thing that the Prime Minister has so clearly set out his stall.  Nobody should go to the polling station next year not knowing what is on offer.

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