Tuesday 15 July 2014

Shuffling Toward Defeat

"What a weird cabinet reshuffle", muses Dan Hodges. "Massacre of the moderates!" shouts Labour. Yes, really. "Brutal ministerial cull" says The Mirror. On and on it goes. Yes, some Tory careers have limped unlamented into the night, including some big hitters. But the story is of ruthlessness and verve, of Dave slicing through his government and leaving behind him a pile of quivering limbs. Dan can barely hide his admiration. This is the audacity of a PM at the top of his game. Au contraire, this reshuffle is symptomatic of weakness and a belief that the Tories are looking down the barrel of electoral defeat.

Dave's reshuffle had to be audacious and far-reaching . These last four years have seen him consistently exposed as a weak, hapless ditherer who's soft on the city and craven before the Tory Taliban of his own back benches. Yet it is also a triumph of media management that all of Dave's failings are projected onto his opponent. Nevertheless, after the failed gamble of the Juncker stunt the PM needed to look in command again. So why not reshuffle everything, especially when his government - with the shameful connivance of the LibDems and my own party's front bench - are pushing "emergency" internet surveillance powers through the house?

What the reshuffle says above all is that Dave believes he's going to lose next May. Think about how the "sacking" of Michael Gove unfolded over the course of the day. What started off as a shock has revealed itself to be something else entirely. First, Dave insists that his moving Gove to chief whip is neither a sacking nor demotion. And then Gove himself, rather indiscreetly, implied on C4 News this evening that he had a say over his own move and that of other ministers. It's all a bit Grimsby Docks if you ask me. Or not, if you follow your nose. Dave is thinking about his legacy and, moreover, the succession. He wants to bequeath a Tory party without anti-women, anti-black, anti-gay hang-ups (ironic, seeing as three gay ministers got the push today) to a modernising leader such as he. Who could this be? Forget Theresa May and Boris Johnson, Dave's keeping the seat warm for George Osborne.

Gove's unseemly public spat with May over the Birmingham schools 'Trojan Horse' "scandal" was transparent manoeuvring on behalf of Osborne. With his appointment as chief whip, Dave could not have handed the chancellor's future campaign manager a more powerful position. Gove now has carte blanche to canvass the parliamentary party, to find out all the little scandals and dark secrets, to whisper promises of elevation here and threats of exposure there, to establish what the state of play for the post-2015 Tories is likely to be, and relentlessly promote the scheme and stature of his bestest buddy.

Sure, Dave knows Gove costs votes so moving him from education comes with a dose of cynical electoral calculation. But he wasn't parked in the chief whip's office to keep him out of the way. Dave placed him there to oversee the succession and ensure continuity, and just like his damaging ideological experiments with children's education, it's a task Gove will pursue with relish.


Robert said...

Hooray hooray hooray, we're Gove free today.

And a special bye bye to Hague. Chilling to think that if he and Dave had had their way last year the RAF would have become an airforce for ISIS in Syria.

Phil said...

I'm afraid it's a case of Dave putting one tool in the box and retrieving another.

Part of the calculation in moving Gove was his unpopularity with the public. So why stick him in a position where his mug will be on telly more if your overwhelming concern isn't the succession?