A businesslike reshuffle?

  • 4 September 2012
  • From the section UK Politics
  • comments

Few ministerial reshuffles are political game-changers. One that keeps the top four cabinet ministers in place and does not change economic policy was always very unlikely to meet that test.

What the prime minister has done is fired and hired, like any business leader, to attempt to address some of the weaknesses.

Problem one: The NHS. Not just selling reforms already passed but - arguably much harder - achieving the efficiencies needed to execute the biggest squeeze on the NHS's finances ever seen. Jeremy Hunt is rewarded for his competence overseeing the Olympics, rather than punished for his alleged failings in handling the Murdochs.

Problem two: Economic growth. Business wants airport expansion so the transport secretary who opposed it has gone and a new not very green environment secretary is appointed, together with the man who helped build the Olympics - LOCOG chief Paul Deighton - who joins the Treasury to build the oft-promised roads, houses and other infrastructure projects.

Problem three: The cry of the Tory press that Ken Clarke is soft on crime and human rights. He is replaced by a Tory hardliner. Iain Duncan Smith was meant to be the new Justice Secretary but overnight he decided to turn down the prime minister's offer, so in stepped Chris Grayling instead.

Every solution comes, of course, with another potential problem: expectations of change in the NHS which will not be met, rows about airports which have already begun, and concern that a harder-line justice secretary could rack up the bills and upset coalition partners.

Ah, well, there's always the next reshuffle!