When is a reshuffle merely a jiggle and when is it a ‘fresh start’, bringing in new faces and re-invigorating Government? That rather depends on who is giving their opinion – Jeremy Corbyn branded the PM’s changes as simply a PR exercise, yet Mrs May believes she has bought in fresh talent…. ‘boosting delivery in key policy areas like housing, health and social care, and ensuring the government looks more like the country it serves’.
The point about reshuffles is that, for the vast majority of the population in this country, they are meaningless. Most people cannot even name five members of the Cabinet, let alone junior Ministers, so the fact that Justine Greening is no longer heading up the Department of Education or that Jeremy Hunt had a hissy fit and refused to go is unlikely to change their view of the Government or its policies because they will see no tangible difference. And yet political commentators, hacks and the media seem to place enormous importance on who went, or did not move where, if the predictions were correct and the message a reshuffle gives to those who pay any attention to it.
Does the lack of movement at the top undermine the PM even further, emphasising her lack of authority and clout, or at a time of potential instability does it show common sense in allowing Ministers to use the knowledge already garnered to really get to grips with their brief? Actually, it is a bit of both, without wishing to sit on the fence. Many will find it comforting, for example, that our economic policy is unlikely to veer off the course set by the Chancellor as he continues in post, although moving Rory Stewart from a position where he has an encyclopaedic knowledge did seem to be one of the odder decisions Mrs May made yesterday.
But going back to the earlier point, unless you are a University vice-chancellor, will Jo Johnson’s departure have any impact on your life – unlikely. In fact, Mrs May was never really going to bolster her position and the public’s perception of her by changing the make-up of her Cabinet, and the junior ministerial ranks. The ship has probably sailed there. It is reminiscent of so many politicians before her – Tony Blair, William Hague and even David Cameron. It is difficult, nigh on impossible to claw your way back to being a popular Prime Minister once the tide has turned against you.
So, as we digest the new, more gender and ethnically balanced Government, time will tell if the gentle movement of personnel this week will have any tangible impact on Government policy. And as for the Prime Minister – she continues in post because the Opposition cannot capitalise on her inherent weaknesses and a lack of challenge from within her own party. Not exactly strong and stable, but probably better than many alternatives.