UK Politics

A shambolic reshuffle proves May can never recover

BY Ben Kelly | thescepticisle   /  9 January 2018

If the Cabinet reshuffle was intended to be an opportunity for Theresa May to reassert her authority, then God help her. Rather than reassert her authority, she reasserted her fragility and reminded all of her political ineptitude. So the government hasn’t been rebooted, it’s had another mini-meltdown.

Yawn. This is getting old now.

It’s time for people to stop writing articles about what Theresa May should do to turn things around; she isn’t going to turn this slowly sinking tanker around. None of the things you think she should do are going to happen. It’s hopeless. The only thing this dreadful PM can be relied upon to do, is to snatch defeat from the jaws of opportunity and come out worse off and less authoritative from every attempt at renewal. The tanker will move laboriously ahead to no particular destination and then it will sink. The end.

For days the gossip was that this would be a “refresh” of the government with Theresa May buoyed by her pre-Christmas victory in passing the first stage of Brexit negotiations. Instead, we were treated to a ridiculous procession of Ministers heading into No10 who, for the most, part came out with the same job. May hasn’t sacked a single Minister, when the rumours had it that up six could be demoted or dismissed. The PM has been pushed around and there is nothing she can do about it.

Greg Clark was believed by May’s allies to be not proactive enough in pushing her agenda, but he hasn’t been sacked. The plan (as far as we can tell) was for Jeremy Hunt to take his place as Business Secretary, but when Hunt refused – insisting he kept health with a beefed up portfolio – May’s hands were tied. It was all rather embarrassing. She couldn’t even get rid of the utterly feeble Andrea Leadsom, who successfully pushed back against any plans to sack her.

May’s weakness and incompetence was best exemplified by her clumsy mishandling of Justine Greening. Greening hadn’t really done anything particularly wrong, having remained loyal to the PM and overseen the opening of 55 new free schools with many more to come. Was there really a pressing need to remove her? Perhaps with her inability to move any big guns May just wanted to duff somebody up to show who’s boss. As ever, she came off worse.

Greening was in the Prime Minister’s office for two and a half hours but still refused the DWP job and quit the government. This was a spectacular unforced error that left Theresa May humiliated and the Downing Street operation looking utterly pathetic. All this achieved was to turn Greening into an embittered backbencher out for revenge. Well played.

Just to make it look as if this wasn’t all a huge waste of time, some people received adjustments to their job titles. Sajid Javid had housing added to his title, although housing was already his responsibility, so it was basically a superficial change.

The most notable aspect of the whole sorry affair is that we still have the lamentable untouchables in prime positions that we knew the Prime Minister would never dare attempt to cross.

The uninspiring Philip “U-turn” Hammond remains in the Treasury, and shows no sign of displaying the kind of proactivity needed to prepare Britain for Brexit. He will continue to bore us for some time to come.

The inadequate dinosaur Liam Fox, lacking a coherent trade strategy, remains free to brief on his unrealistic aspirations typical of the throwback Eurosceptic. His best moment has been reading out a speech at the WTO that a grown up clearly wrote for him. Other than that, he acts as a great example of what happens when you outsource such an important function of government to a supranational body; a total dearth of talent is created where expertise should be.

The ever-casual Brexit Secretary David Davis contributes to this country’s image of being uncertain and unready by appearing to be permanently uncertain and unready himself. Doing a fantastic impression of man way out of his depth, he made himself and the British government look stupid with the impact assessment debacle. Luckily for this lazy has been, not being on top of his brief isn’t enough to get him sacked

The gaffe addicted Boris Johnson is a square peg in a round hole in the Foreign Office, who ordinarily would’ve been sacked for his astoundingly poor judgement in telling a parliamentary committee that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been in Iran to train journalists. These are not, however, ordinary times. Theresa May cannot pick her own team nor can she sack people when they deserve to be sacked. Johnson bumbles on.

Reshuffles are meant to send out a message. The only message this sent out to the public was ‘I have no idea what I’m doing,’. The reshuffling of the lower ranks should go better, but the damage is done.

Theresa May can never recover from her dismal election failure, this confirms it. We have to resign ourselves to watching this mortally wounded Prime Minister limp on until she finally bleeds out and is allowed to die an unceremonious political death at the end of the Brexit process.

It will be a joyous day when she is put out of her misery and we can rid ourselves of this appalling excuse for a government. Then the Conservative Party needs to transform itself under a new leader who can pick a fresh Cabinet so that the public sense they are being offered a choice of something new and different. It cannot be a choice between the Corbyn revolution and this dross.

Renewal will only come with wholesale change. Then, and only then, can the Party move on from this sorry episode and the rise of Corbyn halted and pushed back.