As MPs prepare to return to the Commons, it is expected this week that Prime Minister David Cameron is to complete a reshuffle of his cabinet, which may signal a test of the government.
As MPs prepare to return to the Commons, it is expected this week that Prime Minister David Cameron is to complete a reshuffle of his cabinet, which may signal a test of the government. Amidst the events of the past few months, there are a lot of questions to be answered, and over the past week calls have begun by members to stay in their current positions, most notably from Foreign Secretary William Hague and Conservative party chairman Baroness Warsi. Speculation has emerged according to a report from the Daily Telegraph that Warsi is to be replaced by someone who would speak for core supporters of the party.
Warsi, in an interview with the Telegraph from the Republican National Convention in the US state of Florida, said if she had a choice, she would stay. “If you look at the demographics, at where we need to be at the next election, we need more people in the North voting for us, more of what they call here blue collar workers and I call the white working class,” Warsi said according to a BBC report of the interview. “We need more people from urban areas voting for us, more people who are not white and more women. I play that back and think, I’m a woman, I’m not white, I’m from an urban area, I’m from the North, I’m working class, I kind of fit the bill. All the groups that we’re aiming for are groups that I’m familiar with.”
Warsi added that there should be the right people in the right positions. Warsi was cleared over the summer of a breach in ministerial code and of a wrongful claim of expenses, the BBC report adds.
Outside of Warsi, there are two positions which are causing the most speculation and debate as to what Cameron will do—the positions of the Chancellor and the Culture Secretary. Both George Osborne and Jeremy Hunt have dominated the speculation surrounding the reshuffle and the shape of cabinet once Cameron makes his decision. A poll from The Guardian and ICM suggests that Osborne remains a threat to the Conservatives, and that 39 percent of those who voted Conservative in the last general election believe Osborne should be sacked.
However, Cameron has gone on record saying Osborne is staying. “George Osborne is doing an excellent job in very difficult circumstances and he has my full support in going on and doing that job,” Cameron told Sky News according to a report from the Financial Times. “He’s not going anywhere.” A senior government figure told The Guardian added that the suggestion of removing Osborne was unlikely. “Will the prime minister sacrifice his chancellor? I doubt it,” the official said. “And I can’t see William moving.” The report of the poll on Osborne had party voters suggesting moving Hague in as Chancellor.
However, during that same interview, Cameron did not reveal a future for Hunt, signaling the possibility that a new Culture Secretary may take the post. Hunt had been notably criticised for his involvement in the bid by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation to completely acquire the broadcaster BSkyB. Hunt had been cleared of a breach of ministerial code, which saw him testify before the Leveson Inquiry into press standards. Sources with the government have said according to a report from the Daily Telegraph that a move of Hunt from Culture Secretary to Transport Secretary is being considered.
It is also expected according to the Telegraph that the Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke is to be removed from his current post.
For the Liberal Democrats’ role in cabinet, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has given his intention of keeping the MP David Laws in government. “I have never made any secret of the fact that I want to see David Laws back in government,” Clegg told The Guardian. The Guardian report adds that Laws is expected to join the Cabinet Office to focus on the economy and early intervention. A report from The Guardian also says the Scottish MP Jo Swinson, Clegg’s Parliamentary private secretary, is to be promoted.
Clegg also has encouraged retaining Clarke in his current role. “I am a huge fan of Ken. I sit next to him around the cabinet table,” Clegg told The Guardian. “I think he is a huge reserve of wit and wisdom. He provides a sense of perspective on the ups and downs of government which is incredibly helpful because he has seen so much of it before. He is also one of those politicians who has got a lot of earthy common sense.”
Clegg added that despite that he didn’t agree with Clarke on everything, there were some views he did agree with. “His basic outlook on reform of the justice system, protection of civil liberties, his internationalist outlook, are ones I am very comfortable with.”
However, in the end, the decision of the cabinet lies with Cameron. As leader of the opposition during the previous Labour government, Cameron emphasised keeping ministers in their current positions as long as he could.
However, for the coalition, in the face of some tension within both parties, there is one guarantee. By the time the shuffle is done, there will be a new direction, new goals and new ambitions for the start of the new political season.
What do you think? What ministers should stay and what ministers should go? Have your say in the comments section below.