As Prime Minister David Cameron sat down with his new cabinet for its first meeting at 10 Downing Street, the economy had been the emphasis. “Every department is an economic department.
As Prime Minister David Cameron sat down with his new cabinet for its first meeting at 10 Downing Street, the economy had been the emphasis. “Every department is an economic department. Every department around this table is actually involved in the effort to reduce the deficit and get the economy moving,” Cameron said according to reports. “I think this is a huge effort for right across government and it absolutely has got to have as much pace and effort and energy as we can possibly muster. It is the biggest challenge that we face in our country, dealing with these twin threats of deficit and growth.”
The week leading up to the first meeting of the new cabinet, there had been much speculation as to who would be sacked from the government, who would be promoted within government and if any new MPs would be brought in. As expected, the Chancellor George Osborne, Home Secretary Theresa May, Education Secretary Michael Gove, and Foreign Secretary William Hague retained their positions.
Baroness Warsi was removed as the Conservative party chairman and the Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan also departed. Caroline Spelman, the environment secretary, also departed from government. Yet, the most notable departure came from Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, who was succeeded by the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, whose views have been known to be controversial when examining the position as Health Secretary.
However, after the reshuffle announcements became known, criticism emerged from London Mayor Boris Johnson, when news emerged that Justine Greening had been removed as Transport Secretary. Johnson is opposed to expansion at Heathrow Airport. “There can be only one reason to move her and that is to expand Heathrow airport,” Johnson said in a statement according to a report from The Daily Telegraph. “It is simply mad to build a new runway in the middle of west London. Now it is clear that the Government wants to ditch its promises and send yet more planes over central London. We will fight this all the way. It is time for the Government to level with Londoners: are they in favour of a third runway at Heathrow or not?”
An aide to the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told the Telegraph that the views of the Liberal Democrats were clear. “The Coalition agreement could not be clearer about Heathrow, and the Liberal Democrats have been clear on our policy. That is not going to change,” the aide said. Downing Street officials added that Greening’s view on Heathrow did not cause influence on her future in the cabinet, in light of concerns raised about the possibility of unfair treatment.
Labour leader Ed Miliband also criticised the reshuffle. “It is the same old faces, the same old policies, a no-change reshuffle,” Miliband said during Prime Minister’s Questions according to the BBC. “His fundamental economic approach is wrong. In his two-and-half-years as prime minister, the British economy has not grown at all. Why does he not admit it the real problem is that ‘Plan A’ has spectacularly failed.” Miliband added that the crowd spoke for Britain, referring to the booing of Osborne as he presented medals at the Paralympics.
Cameron said the coalition was united and criticised the opposition. “This is a government that means business. We have got the team to deliver it,” Cameron said according to the BBC. “The big difference in British politics is that I don’t want to move my chancellor, he can’t move his shadow chancellor. In spite of all the opportunity, this is a weak and divided opposition.”
MPs will sit this week. Then, the Commons will rise so the major political parties can be held. The Liberal Democrats are the first to hold their conference, which will be the 22nd through the 26th of September in Brighton. Labour will then hold their conference in Manchester from the 30th of September to the 4th of October. The Conservatives will then conclude the series of conferences in Birmingham from the 7th to the 10th of October. MPs will then return to Westminster in order for the House to reconvene on the 15th.
While the new cabinet is in form, the next month will set (and likely renew) the individual principles and platforms each party wishes to accomplish. But when the Commons reconvenes, interesting scenes will be played out in Westminster.
Let the Autumn political season begin.