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Anything you can do I can do

Nick Robinson | 17:31 UK time, Monday, 2 July 2007

David Cameron has just announced a new Shadow Cabinet "of all the talents". Actually, he didn't use that phrase but it was clearly in his mind.

He's making Pauline Neville Jones, a career diplomat and former head of the Joint Intelligence committee, a life Peer so that she can become Shadow Secretary of State for Security. Thus, were he so inclined, he could claim that he has a former chair of JIC in his Shadow Cabinet whereas Gordon Brown only has a former deputy Chair of JIC (Admiral West - made the most junior minister in the Home Office last week)

And he's relieving Sayeeda Warsi, a British Born muslim of Pakistani origin of the search for a safe seat by making her a working peer and putting her straight into the Shadow Cabinet in charge of community cohesion. She'll be the first Muslim to sit around any party's top table. Brown, you may recall, hailed his promotion of two young Muslim MPs last week - one became a junior minister, the other a whip.

Brown promoted a woman to the front line in Jacqui Smith. Cameron's now done the same by making Caroline Spelman Party Chairman. The PM promoted young rising stars - Purnell, Burnham et al. Now Cameron's promoted Messrs Gove, Herbert, Hunt and Shapps.

There is, of course, no connection between these two sets of decisions.


  • 1.
  • At 05:56 PM on 02 Jul 2007,
  • Steve Way wrote:

So if there's to be "absolutely no change in strategy" why the need to reshuffle?

A worried David Cameron shows his focus group principles again in the shadow cabinet "of all the talents". The true Heir to Blair strikes again. If only they had chosen David Davis we may now have been able to look forward to the first real Tory - Labour debate since the Iron Lady

  • 2.
  • At 06:29 PM on 02 Jul 2007,
  • Josh wrote:

Although Sayeeda Warsi's elevation to the Lords raises yet more questions over constituitional affairs; it appears to me Ms Warsi is someone the Conservatives desperately need in terms of image; yet I do feel her "talents" could well be wasted in the Upper Chamber. And talking of the "talents" I notice David Davis kept his front bench berth. Does David Cameron really see him as a prospective candidiate at the home office; because frankly I don't. And yes I am well aware I criticised Jacqui Smith's appointment last Friday.

  • 3.
  • At 06:39 PM on 02 Jul 2007,
  • Jonathan wrote:

Your title for this newslog entry just about sums it up Nick. It just confirms that Cameron is a reactionary. A complete copy-cat.

Could not both leaders be accused of diluting democracy by appointing unelected (thus un-mandated) people into the cabinet and shadow cabinet?

  • 4.
  • At 07:24 PM on 02 Jul 2007,
  • kenny reynolds wrote:

Oh dear, are the wheels coming off the Tory wagon? Now it's follow-my-leader. Unless Cameron really gets a grip and starts to "oppose" and remind people that we now have a Prime Minister who has been the key driver of the failed domestic policy for 10 years, the Tory train will hit the buffers rather soon. If Brown were to call a snap election he would probably win outright and Cameron's fate would be sealed. And this from a disenfranchised Tory!!

  • 5.
  • At 09:40 PM on 02 Jul 2007,
  • Charles E Hardwidge wrote:

Certainly, there's a lot of skill and knowledge being shuffled around but clever only gets you so far. How smart the individuals, Shadow Cabinet, or Parliamentary Conservative Party turn out to be is another thing. Having edge and flair is one thing. Being able to wield and slice is another. Behind closed doors, I suspect, David Cameron knows that more reflection and maturity will be required before he is able not just to win but deliver in the qualitative sense.

Dame Pauline Neville Jones real value isn't in the flash and bang of security. It's in providing an extra pair of eyes and brain to the issue of Conservative Party maturity, decision making, and critical thinking in the cabinet. Her knowledge of people and techniques, and the experience of age, will bring some added reality and gravity to what would otherwise be a thin line-up. As for the others, time is the father of truth.

So far, Gordon Brown has helped raise the IQ of British politics and given a nod to wisdom. David Cameron has mirrored him but the deeper problems of the narrow and self-serving competitive approach remains to be tested. As I've discussed before, and Roy Hattersley sagely reminded us of in his opinion piece, A New Dawn After 13 years, society is better served by not playing the winners and losers game.

  • 6.
  • At 09:41 PM on 02 Jul 2007,
  • Giulio Napolitani wrote:

Of course, he has to do it to bring the Shadow Cabinet into line with the changes in government departments. But the way he does it gives the impression that if Gordon took to wearing a spinning bow tie, David would sport the full clown suit...

I'm not sure I'm comfortable with appointing people you like to the Lords in order for them to serve as Minsters or Shadows. It appears to undermine talented people's efforts to get elected in the customary way. Why bother with the hard work of getting into Parliament?

Or is it a tacit admission that Ms Warsi will never get beyond a junior cabinet rank?

What? He didn't ask any Liberals?

He is a bit behind the times, is our dear David!

  • 9.
  • At 11:23 PM on 02 Jul 2007,
  • Edward wrote:

Is that the best you could do, Mr Robinson? I'm disappointed.

Caroline Spelman has long been the favourite for Chairman.

Do you suggest that the 'rising stars' should not be allowed to 'rise'?

And how do you explain Osborne, Hague, Davis and Fox keeping their jobs?

How about a constructive critique of Cameron's reshuffle?


Remind me, Nick, exactly how long was Neville Jones the chair of the JIC?

Wasn't it five weeks, including Christmas?

  • 11.
  • At 11:49 PM on 02 Jul 2007,
  • Paul Smith wrote:

Blimey Nick.... aren't we getting a touch biased in our reporting of late ??? As someone who's fairly neutral and not tied to any party, I not with interest that you describe Brown's reshuffle as 'embodying change' and a fresh start yet Cameron's gets viewed as an opportunity to 'relieve Sayeeda Warsi of the search for a safe seat'. What exactly do HM Opposition have to do to get any even-handed coverage ???

  • 12.
  • At 12:17 AM on 03 Jul 2007,
  • Sam Korn wrote:

There may be striking similarities between the two sets of appointments, but they will be perceived in very different ways. Whereas Brown's changes were big news at the time with the focus that the change of Prime Minister brought, Cameron is competing with a huge terrorism alert and the natural disadvantage that being in opposition gives. His appointees won't have a great deal of influence, and perception of them will therefore be very different.

Mr Brown has a big advantage here.

  • 13.
  • At 07:27 AM on 03 Jul 2007,
  • John Constable wrote:

'Dave' can rearrange his deckchecks as much as he likes.

But it will still make hardly any difference at all to his Parties prospects.

As the former Tory leader Michael Howard pointed out, the bald fact of political life is that they must patiently wait for NL to screw up the economy, and then, by default, fill the boots.

And they have the cheek to call economics the 'doleful' science!

  • 14.
  • At 07:49 AM on 03 Jul 2007,
  • Ian wrote:

This just smacks of copy-cat politics. Does Cameron have no original thoughts of his own or does he just pinch other peoples ideas (JIC members, etc) and try to do "one up" with them.


  • 15.
  • At 08:00 AM on 03 Jul 2007,
  • ed corbett wrote:

If only you could send a singing email,(what a thought).
David Cameron singing
"Anything you can do I can do better"
Gordon Brown singing
"I can do anything better than you"
At PM questions in the House,
"Yes I can"
"No you can't"
Session ends with the Speaker singing,
"Always look on the bright side of Life"
Ed Corbett

Three cheers for DC.

Very good stuff once again.

And many congratulations to the energetic Grant Shapps too.

  • 17.
  • At 10:22 AM on 03 Jul 2007,
  • Neil Howie wrote:

I thought David Cameron was abandoning "tit-for-tat" politics? No policies and now copying the new PM, I think the Tories need some ideas of their own.

Oh there is a connection alright... that is the fact that Labour are hinting at an early election. Dave therefor has to prepare accordingly. Hopefully we can now look forward to a lively jostle to become the newly elected governing party.

  • 19.
  • At 11:06 AM on 03 Jul 2007,
  • jacob parsons wrote:

Well lets hope this gamble works out not just for Brown but the country. The cabinet is full of up and coming unknowns' with a few token appointments along the way. Sounds more like a dotcom company such as ebay than a cabinet and government for the UK!

Lets just hope this is a team of talents and that these talents make up for the significant lack of experience we now have running our country.

Or when can we expect the dot com bust???

  • 20.
  • At 01:26 PM on 03 Jul 2007,
  • Sara wrote:

If you're going to play top trumps, you need to adjudicate a bit more realistically.

Yes, Cameron wins the 'number of women on front bench' prize, and the 'highest-ranking ethnic minority person' prize, insofaras as a shadow cabinet position can be considered the same rank as a Cabinet position. (Though from all one hears, he may not want her views to be very widely heard!) But your other comment is ludicrous. "Brown promoted a woman to the front line in Jacqui Smith. Cameron's now done the same by making Caroline Spelman Party Chairman". In what universe is shadow Party Chairman 'the same' as Home Secretary?

  • 21.
  • At 01:42 PM on 03 Jul 2007,
  • Dave H wrote:

Dave Cameron should reshuffle himself out. Always one step behind, the Tories elected a leader to rival Blair, but now he faces Brown. However, it was the same people, who elected IDS over Ken Clarke - and must therefore bear some responsibility for the UK being involve din he Iraq war - if "Dave" wants an enquiry!

  • 22.
  • At 02:43 PM on 03 Jul 2007,
  • Victor, NW Kent wrote:

David Cameron hasn't done much recently that makes me cheer, in fact he hasn't done much at all but I cannot see why you find the fact that he has chosen "horses for courses" to be worth a leary aside comment. It would seem to be very logical to position people where they can do the most good and not by some lottery relating to sex, schooling, colour or religion.

Not one of your best blogs, Nick.

  • 23.
  • At 04:57 PM on 03 Jul 2007,
  • Patrick Heren wrote:

Desperation. I am an instinctive Conservative voter but I just cannot see what Lord Snooty and his pals think about anything. They simply ape the government. They will lose the next election, and they will deserve to do so.
I don't know about my fellow-voters, but I respect politicians who have minds of their own (principles would be going too far!) and who are not diverted by focus groups.

  • 24.
  • At 06:16 PM on 03 Jul 2007,
  • John Constable wrote:

I don't believe that the English people do respect politicians who have minds of their own.

If they truly did, then they would stop acting like sheep in voting for conventional political parties, and start voting for independent candidates.

It will have totally passed the electorate by, but the few independents who have managed to get elected to Parliament have an outstanding track record.

Martin Bell, for instance, was the only MP who stood up for Elizabeth Filkin, as she investigated, rather too well, Parliamentary sleaze.

Danny Finklestein made a similiar point in the Times recently, when he stated that a number of independently posited viewpoints are ultimately more likely to lead to a sensible collective outcome.

That would be better Government.

But I suspect that deep down, the politicians much prefer their sheep.

  • 25.
  • At 09:46 PM on 03 Jul 2007,
  • Alan Houghton wrote:

the comments here seem to indicate a lot of people care very much about the conservative party - it's a party that doesnt seem to realise that most of its so called grass roots are elederly weeds and a fresh set of voters are willing to
work with and vote for them with the right policies.

  • 26.
  • At 02:52 AM on 04 Jul 2007,
  • Shaun Dickinson wrote:

I always thought it was standerd procedure for the oppersistion to shuffle there cabinet when the party of govement does? After all the Lib dems are doing it to. Besides doesn't a reshuffle prevent any one minister from loesing intret in the department and going stale.

  • 27.
  • At 03:33 PM on 04 Jul 2007,
  • D Jones wrote:


"And how do you explain Osborne, Hague, Davis and Fox keeping their jobs?"

Cameron's too weak to sack them...

  • 28.
  • At 04:08 PM on 04 Jul 2007,
  • Nimrod wrote:

Will someone tell 'Dave' what Opposition actually means?

And like most Shadows we won't see these people when the spotlight swings around.

It's hardly going to excite those who've lost faith in politics is it?

  • 30.
  • At 12:06 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • J Westerman wrote:

To be fair, you have to sympathise with his problem in choosing women. None of them went to Eton.

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