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House of Cards (and Liberals)

In Government Spotlight, Home Affairs, Parliamentary Spotlight, Party politics on July 30, 2011 at 12:13 am

By polarii for The Daily Soapbox

With silly season on the horizon,will David Cameron and Nick Clegg take, like the Daily Soapbox, a new layout?

KEY: Name, Position, Party, Likely Movement: Comment

David Cameron, PM, Con, No Change: The only chance of movement here is personal tragedy or palace coup. Neither seems likely; having led the Conservatives back to government, and seeing their vote hold up in the polls, and being rated highest of the three party leaders, any dissidents in the party will likely be quelled.

Nick Clegg, DPM, LD, No Change: Despite poor showings on AV, Local Elections and Lords Reform, he is shielded from a coup by the various incompetencies of Lib Dem cabinet ministers and the anonymity of many other Lib Dems. After all, who has heard of Tim Farron?

George Osborne, Chancellor, Con, No Change: The brains behind the Cameron operation has fulfilled his role with an unexpected degree of competence and gravitas. As he effectively controls much of what the government does, and is very close friends with Dave, he is unlikely to move until Dave moves on.

Theresa May, Home Sec and Women, Con, No Change: Something of a bruiser, she has weathered the initial storm over police pensions handily. Advantaged by having few prominent female competitors, she can feel secure in her office.

William Hague, Foreign Sec, Con, No Change: Another senior Tory signed on to the Cameron project, and the recognised Tory number two; slight difficulties over Libya have not imperiled his position. His wit and sagacity will continue to brighten the Tory top table.

Ken Clarke, Justice, Con, Down: Gaffe has followed gaffe, policy after policy has been dropped. He managed to position the government to the left of Labour on criminal justice allowing Ed Miliband to cry “havoc” (surely “rape”, Ed.) and let slip the dogs of the right wing press, denting the Conservatives’ ‘tough on crime’ image. The right of the party – the primary party pitfall for Cameron – will not come to his aid, though his experience will ensure a complete downgrade is not on the cards.

Liam Fox, Defence, Con, No Change/Sideways: The champion of the right has been vocal in his support of the armed services, and so far has sufficient grasp of his brief to avoid re-opening the SDSR. Cameron may move him sideways to remove any impression of positive ability, but the right would moan if he were moved down.

Vince Cable, BIS, LD, Down: Public disagreements with the Prime Minister over immigration, and a spectacular dressing down over the BSkyB bid leaves Cable weakened, especially as he has been unable to push through signature legislation on completely separating retail and investment banking, and George Osborne got his foot in that door before him. His veneer of economic credibility suitably tarnished, he will stay in the Cabinet, but sighing disagreements with Nick Clegg will not endear him.

Iain Duncan Smith, DWP, Con, No Change: A more knowledgeable minister is not to be found in Westminster. IDS ticks both the Cameroon and Thatcherite boxes, and has ideas, vision and a personal story to boot. No movement here until next election.

Andrew Lansley, Health, Con, Down/Out: Having authored a comprehensive and cogent health policy, he forgot to sell it to the public, forcing a number of changes imposed from above. His knowledge of the department is unparalleled, and much of his policy stands, but Cameron’s signature priority is the NHS. The damaging affair may cost him his post.

Michael Gove, Education, Con, No Change: Another person who has slotted well into the role, even if he has made some odd or wrong decisions. Again, the author of another comprehensive reform plan who has yet to entirely convince public, but who makes greater strides towards looking ministerial every day.

Danny Alexander, Treasury Chief Secretary, LD, No Change: As Osborne is to Cameron, so Alexander is to Clegg. Except he’s ginger, and they didn’t go to the same school. He has been performing his job with ability and relish, and is the Lib Dem man at the Treasury. Clegg has no reason to move him.

Chris Huhne, Energy, LD, Out/No Change: Given a rather odd tag because his future entirely depends upon a police investigation into whether he lied about the whereabouts of his wife in order to dodge a speeding ticket. If guilty, his career is over for the next few years. If innocent, he will hold on. Neither Clegg nor Cameron particularly wants to keep him; Cameron because of political distance and the AV row, and Clegg because he is the strongest leadership contender among the Cabinet Liberals.

Eric Pickles, DeCLoG, Con, No Change/Up: Has been performing extremely well in this department. Cameron is most likely to keep him there until more local government reforms are through, but if he was keen to get a little further up the greasy pole, he is more likely than most.

Philip Hammond, Transport, Con, Up: Having been pipped to Chief Secretary by the Liberals, this competent and cool operator could well find himself in a department that needed additional help clamping down on unnecessary expenditure.

Caroline Spelman, DEFRA, Con, Out: Monumental screw-ups on forestry and circus animals have given Labour free ammunition on topics they normally can’t touch with a barge-pole. It’s more a question of “going or gone” than “if”.

Jeremy Hunt, COMS, Con, Up: Has minimised criticism over arts cuts and has managed not to alienate one or other party on the BSkyB matter, which was unceremoniously dumped on him after Cable failed. The Olympics are also proceeding to plan, and he cuts a very good image with the media.

Andrew Mitchell, DfID, Con, Up: Has successfully implemented reforms, has a salable though not spectacular media image, and no dirty laundry as far as anyone can see. Not going to soar, but more ascend gently.

Michael Moore, Scotland, LD, No Change: Raised eyebrows when he suggested that two referenda would be required for Scottish independence, one for Scotland and one for the UK. As many matters are devolved, has not had much opportunity to display competence.

Cheryl Gillan, Wales, Con, No Change/Out: As above viz devolved matters, but has helped turned the argument in Wales against Labour for their cuts in the NHS. The ‘out’ is included because she is well-known to have private grievance with High-Speed Rail 2, which runs through her Buckinghamshire constituency. She has intimated that she is prepared to resign over the issue.

Owen Paterson, NI, Con, No Change/Up: Again, as many matters are devolved, he has not had much to do. However, Northern Ireland has seen more recent displays of unity in its political workings, and Stormont is now functioning well with Westminster. This could be fortunate, or belie a certain ability on Paterson’s part. He also has an endorsement from Conservative Home.

Lord Strathclyde, Lords and Lancaster, Con, No Change: It is exceptionally rare for there to be a change in Lords leader mid-term, and Strathclyde has not done anything so disastrous or brilliant to warrant movement.

Baroness Warsi, Without Portfolio, Con, Down/No Change: Is in as Party Chairman, and to meet the female and ethnic quotas. She has performed poorly as Party Chairman, and is not as telegenic as hoped. Guido backs the competent and telegenic Grant Shapps, but he is neither female nor Muslim.

Francis Maude and Oliver Letwin, Cabinet Office, Con, No Change: These two wonks are giving the civil service the run-around; rumours from Whitehall alternately report swimmingly good relationships and administrative collapse, which means they’re keeping it running while reforming it. There have been no glaring holes in the Conservatives’ overall approach to policy either.

David Willetts, Universities, Con, No Change: Though he wasn’t great at selling high tuiton fees and was slapped down by the PM on a particularly stupid policy idea, two brains (for thus is he known) is keeping the show running. Giving in to student and university calls for his removal would make Cameron look weak, and so he shall stay.

Sir George Young, Commons Leader, Con, No Change: Should really be the Speaker. But seeing as no-one has quite plucked up the courage to unseat Bercow, this is the closest thing he’ll get. And government business is moving forward pretty smoothly too.

Patrick McLoughlin, Chief Whip, Con, No Change/Down: Has managed to control Tory backbenchers on important issues, but has not found a way to control the Backbench Business Committee, leading to some embarrassing amendments on Europe and circus animals. He can be forgiven this, though, because it is new.

Dominic Grieve, Attorney General, Con, No Change: Has performed competently enough over affairs such as the Kelly Review to keep his fading star burning until the next reshuffle. Plus, there’s the added bonus that Ken Clarke is the only other QC senior enough to take the role. Attorney Generals tend to be another stable office.

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