Cameron’s quiet retooling of government

Has David Cameron weakened his hand with his latest government reshuffle? Emily Hohler reports.

Reshuffles that are intended to make prime ministers look strong have a habit of achieving the reverse, and David Cameron's is no exception, says Matthew Norman in The Independent. Failing to persuade Iain Duncan Smith to swap welfare and pensions for Ken Clarke's job as justice secretary and then having to give Clarke's job to "the first alternative right-winger in view", Chris Grayling, "shines a halogen lamp on the diminishment of the PM's authority". As for Jeremy Hunt's promotion to health secretary, the "brazenness" of rewarding him for "acting as his human shield" over Rupert Murdoch "beggars belief".

To be fair, the PM may have felt that what the Department of Health needed was a good communicator who could preside over the planned changes to the health service without alienating all the "powerful NHS vested interests", says Janet Daley in The Daily Telegraph. Appointing Grayling, a robust eurosceptic and "first-rate communicator", as justice secretary was an "excellent move", as was the promotion of Owen Paterson to environment secretary.

The reshuffle also revealed that Cameron is aware that his government's "chief failing" has been delivering its economic policy, says The Times. Having decided to keep George Osborne and Vince Cable in their respective posts at the Treasury and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, he has "quietly retooled" them with "business expertise and political muscle" via the appointments of Paul Deighton, Michael Fallon and Sajid Javid.

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

In terms of policy changes, the "one major issue" thrown open is the future of Heathrow, now that the transport secretary, Justine Greening, who was opposed to the third runway, has been demoted, says The Independent. But overall this is "hardly the stuff of history". The reshuffle has "tilted towards the Tory right", but the chancellor, foreign secretary, home secretary, education secretary, defence secretary, business secretary and deputy prime minister have all stayed put.

For all the talk of moving to the right, Nick Clegg didn't do that badly, says Alice Thomson in The Times. He moved two of his closest allies, David Laws and Norman Lamb, into key roles, "strengthening his position". Clegg finally seems to have "found his role". Now the party should give him a chance to show that he's the calm, confident El Cid of British politics, "rather than just another Don Quixote tilting at political windmills".

All Cameron was trying to do was to "remove obstacles" and "consolidate the government's position", says Daniel Finkelstein in The Times. Ken Clarke needed to go because he was "pulling the government away from the public's views on crime policy" and Andrew Lansley was alienating healthcare professionals. Cameron still leads "a government of a country with no growth and no money, as the leader of a party with no majority, in coalition with partners under terrible political pressure. He couldn't reshuffle his way out of that. And he hasn't."

Emily Hohler

Emily has worked as a journalist for more than thirty years and was formerly Assistant Editor of MoneyWeek, which she helped launch in 2000. Prior to this, she was Deputy Features Editor of The Times and a Commissioning Editor for The Independent on Sunday and The Daily Telegraph. She has written for most of the national newspapers including The Times, the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, The Evening Standard and The Daily Mail, She interviewed celebrities weekly for The Sunday Telegraph and wrote a regular column for The Evening Standard. As Political Editor of MoneyWeek, Emily has covered subjects from Brexit to the Gaza war.

Aside from her writing, Emily trained as Nutritional Therapist following her son's diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes in 2011 and now works as a practitioner for Nature Doc, offering one-to-one consultations and running workshops in Oxfordshire.