Driven by data; ridden with liberty.
As Prime Minister, David Cameron has kept the movement of his ministers to a minimum. As a testament to this stability, Theresa May is the longest-serving Home Secretary since Rab Butler, who held the post between 1957 and 1962.
On the 14th and 15th July, David Cameron began the widest and deepest reshuffle as Britain’s Prime Minister, moving 42 ministers and whips. William Hague quit as the Foreign Secretary, to be replaced by Phillip Hammond. Mr Hague will become Leader of the House of Commons, and stand down as an MP at the next election. Weekly spars with his new Labour counterpart Angela Eagle will be a boon to Westminster sketch-writers. Fraser Nelson, the editor of The Spectator, wrote Mr Hague “had become the Foreign Secretary who wasn’t there”.
The surprising move was of the controversial Education Secretary Michael Gove, who became Chief Whip, after the departure of Sir George Young. Mr Gove had pursued radical reforms during his time in office, including enabling over half of English secondary schools to become academies, opening over 170 free schools, and cutting the number of pupils attending failing schools by 250,000. Mr Gove was growing increasingly unpopular with voters, with only 44% of Conservative voters believing he had performed well as the Education Secretary.
There has been a media focus on the number of women appointed in this reshuffle. In the Daily Mail’s case, this focus was on what the new ministers were wearing. Nicky Morgan, who became the MP for Loughborough in 2010 and was formerly the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, is now the Secretary of State for Education. Liz Truss, who was Michael Gove’s junior minister in the Department of Education, is the new Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Despite Peter Oborne – the chief political commentator for The Telegraph – displaying grimacing concern for the outgoing Owen Paterson, the former Secretary of State claimed his badger cull was a success on the basis that the “badgers moved the goalposts”.
Anna Soubry now takes a more senior position in the Department of Defence. Amber Rudd, who was previously a whip, has moved to be a minister within the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Priti Patel has been appointed as the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, replacing David Gauke, who was promoted to Nicky Morgan’s freshly vacant position. Penny Mordaunt, the Portsmouth North MP, has been selected for a minor role within the Department for Communities and Local Government. Esther McVey, the Employment Minister, was not promoted, but she will also attend Cabinet meetings.
Kenneth Clarke retires from the Cabinet, finishing his illustrious ministerial career. Whilst Labour called the reshuffle “the massacre of the moderates”, there appears to be no clear ideological shift. The reshuffle does serve a rejuvenated purpose: Michael Gove and William Hague are no longer leaders of government departments, and are free to campaign for Conservative victory. This is not a Cabinet to affect government policy, but a Cabinet to win an election.