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A leap into Cabinet

Brian Taylor | 11:57 UK time, Sunday, 30 May 2010

David Laws is either the first calamity of the new Parliament or, perhaps more accurately, the last victim of the tsunami which swept through the previous one.

Either way, he had to go.

It would not have been credible for him to be casting a covetous eye over Britain's finances, ordering cuts, while the Westminster authorities were investigating his own.

If handled properly, it need not cause utter dislocation within the coalition. The Tories are scarcely in a position to excoriate one brought down by expenses. Take your cue from moats and proceed.

Plus these are still early days for the new government. There are still sufficient numbers on the backbenches who yearn forpromotion to provide a bulwark of support to the Cabinet.

That factor dimishes with the passage of time as some are sacked and others conclude that they will never achieve office.

However, it will cause political problems for the coalition externally: both in the Commons and with the voters.

Collective sigh

In the Commons, Labour will attempt to extend their criticism to the programme of savings which Mr Laws has already instigated and the ones to come.

The voters, I suspect, will yield a weary, collective sigh.

As for Scotland, it produces an intriguing switch. Danny Alexander, who has yet to face the Commons in his Scottish role, moves to the Treasury to replace Mr Laws.

He already had a ministerial foot at the centre of government with his role in the Cabinet Office. Now he has been asked to step up to one of the toughest jobs of all.

Controlling expenditure is tough in good times: colleagues moan unceasingly when their pet projects are denied.

In these times, it will be grim beyond measure.

Into the Scotland Office steps Michael Moore.

Scottish mandate

There has been some surprise expressed that he has over-leaped the Conservative MP, David Mundell, who remains his deputy.

That is to misunderstand the nature of the post. In this coalition, the Lib Dems do Scotland. That is a matter largely of arithmetic.

Mr Mundell is a lone rider, the solitary Scots Tory MP. His appointment would revive challenges to the UK Government's Scottish mandate.

The Lib Dems have almost twice as many MPs in Scotland as the SNP.

Myself, I was rather surprised that Michael Moore wasn't in government in the first place.


From his days enthusiastically explaining the lack of progress in the Scottish coalition talks in 1999, on the pavement outside the Lawnmarket, he has progressed rapidly and is well regarded.

Now, the surprise may be that he has leaped straight into the Cabinet over, for example, Alistair Carmichael who is already in office.

Perhaps it is felt that Mr Carmichael is an innate whip, born to command. Perhaps the circumstances called for the minimum disruption.

Either way, congratulations to Michael Moore on his elevation.

To the new Chief Secretary to the Treasury, in the words of the late, great Allan Sherman, "loadsaluck".

For the avoidance of doubt, Mr Sherman intended irony. As do I.


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