I used to be really interested in political reshuffles. They were always quite good fun and when you knew all the individuals involved it was always quite fascinating to see who was on the up and who was on the downward career path and who was simply being moved around in circles. Some Ministers lasted years in the anonymity of the PUS role! Hidden away in the department and Westminster Hall debates.
Of course for most people there is very little interest in Westminster politics and so these are basically anonymous names being moved around departments that most of us haven’t really any understanding of what they do or what they job entails. Most would argue they run fine without Ministerial interference.
On a reshuffle day the tea rooms and portcullis area used to be awash with people second guessing what might or might not happen. Most MPs who thought they were in with a chance will be in place by their phones or make sure their mobiles have a good reception. The ‘Call’ from number still makes the heart thump. However, these days across social media mean that we can all watch the reshuffle almost taken place live on Twitter. So much so that today we even had an announcement of Chris Grayling being announced as Party chair even though minutes later we realise he hadn’t been appointed to that post at all. This was all part of the narrative of the day – it was all a bit shambolic. I assume most reshuffles were mostly a bit botched from memory. It’s just that we didn’t have 24 hour news and social media watching every second. Today if you are going to choreograph a reshuffle that you have already spun, you need slick execution. We didn’t see much of that yesterday did we?
Reshuffles. It really is one of the most bizarre ways of running the country. Can you imagine about every year or 18 months if your CEO walks in and suggests they are going to move all the people around into different departments and not because of any perceived faliure or success (however that is measured in government which is often not the same as being a competent department minister) but instead promotions and demotions will be based on the particular geographic location of your constituency, which side of particular ideological divide you sit and increasingly these days whether you voted remain or leave. It also depends who your friends are in the higher ranks of the party and how close they are to having the ear of the Prime Minister and his or her colleagues. Most parliamentarians just shrug their shoulder when they hear some of the announcements from number 10. Anybody involved in Politics will know there is very little of the process based on meritocracy about who gets promoted and who gets demoted. It’s amazing that such important jobs are won and lost on the basis of Westminster gossip. No Minister ever has an appraisal. Very few insiders believe the best people for the job are actually doing the job! Indeed knowledge of a subject area seems the last reason to appoint a Minister!
One of the reasons I believe our Country suffers from poor decision-making is both the short-term nature of the first past the post but Parliamentary system that leads to short term political fixes, and this messy way at a reshuffle, replacing a departmental Secretary of State every couple of years. It does mean that even within a five year Parliament its possible to make deep changes in policy direction simply by the change of the Secretary of State. No minister arrives at a department just thinking I’ll keep things ticking over nicely for the next couple of years.
Instead they will arrive thinking they going to ‘make a mark’ on the department & bring along with them or their ideological baggage and ideas formed -usually through anecdote and virtually none of them from evidence-based policy-making. It really does make for a heady mix poor government. But strong Ministers can be good. They can also be a Disaster. Look at the damage Gove has done in every department he has touched. Powerful ministers can do a lot of damage in 2 years!
Today the Prime Minister seemed even weaker than usual. Clearly the reshuffle was necessitated because of the resignation of a number of her senior colleagues. But it did give her the opportunity to make some major changes at the top but it appears from the first days activity very little radical change has taken place. Indeed Ministers refusing to leave or be sacked is not a good look for a Strong and Stable PM. It perhaps signifies the lack of room she has to manoeuvre. She did look very weak by the end of the first day.
Tomorrow, plenty of junior ministers will be part of moving the deckchairs and these will be mainly people even the most hardy political nerds have ever heard of. After I lost in 2010 I did keep a close eye on what was going on in parliament but by 2015 there were many new names and of course in 2017 your necessary election has led to a whole series of other new New batch of MPs. I haven’t heard of most of them and I take an interest! Surprisingly some of these have already been touted for ministerial positions. I Guess that most haven’t even really found all the ways around the Parliamentary estate or know exactly how Parliament works.
What is it is only a reshuffle today just to signify again the weakness of the skip and it’s preoccupation with Brexit and just how out of touch with major issues facing the country they government is today. I have always argued that governments can multitask and they can deal with Brexit and the whole series of the major issues that face the country but increasingly this government does give the impression of a being completely hapless out of touch quite incompetent. May has managed to destroy all of her credibility in just over a year.
There is unlikely to be an election any time soon so there will be plenty more of this to come over the next 2 to 3 years. What a depressing thought. Where are the big beasts to take on high office in this country? we need them now more than ever. Good luck everybody. We are on our own.
(Please excuse the typos this was dictated and will be amended later this evening)
PS Just seen that Corbyn told the PLP we won’t be in the Single Market.. I am even more depressed by the state of politics tonight!