Thursday, 16 September 2021

Nothing to see here


The Guardian describes yesterday’s cabinet reshuffle by Johnson as being “ruthless”. The PM himself will probably be pleased with that description, but a reshuffle in which the majority of ministers remain exactly where they started, and in which one demotee, Raab, had to be bought off by bestowing on him the utterly meaningless title of Deputy Prime Minister looks, in practice, to be anything but ruthless. In any event, being ruthless requires being decisive, even if only decisively wrong, and decisive is not an adjective which many would apply to the PM.

Many years ago, Theresa May described her party as “the nasty party”. I always thought that she intended it as a criticism, a warning that the party needed to change, but Johnson, ever keen to be seen as the opposite of whatever went before him, seems to see it more as a blueprint for action. The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, who enjoys a justifiably unchallenged lead as the nastiest of the bunch, retains her position with the PM heaping praise on her and egging her on to become even nastier, and both the Chancellor and the Work and Pensions Minister, determined to press ahead with their policy of further impoverishing the poorest are also retained in post. Meanwhile, one of the least offensive ministers, Robert Buckland, was removed, apparently for not being nasty enough (although it may just have been, as John Crace suggests, that Johnson either confused his Roberts or simply needed a convenient vacancy to which he could demote Raab).

Closer to home, there were those who expected the Secretary of State for Wales to be amongst the casualties, but he has been described as having clung on to his post. The reasons for his survival are unclear. Perhaps he is nastier than he appears to be (that’s almost a compliment of a sort). Then again, maybe Johnson was unable to find a Welsh Tory MP who he considers even nastier to replace him. But the likeliest explanation is that Johnson has simply forgotten that he’s there; Wales isn’t exactly at the top of his list of priorities.

Overall, this ‘ruthless’ reshuffle looks more like a case of ‘no change’ than ‘all change’. The one possible exception is that the new Foreign Secretary might try and use her position to cut down on cheese imports, although whether the Brexit Secretary needs anyone else's help to cut off the flow of food to the UK is an open question.

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