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What the reshuffle tells us

Nick Robinson | 14:11 UK time, Monday, 19 January 2009

Ken Clarke, Eric Pickles, Chris GraylingWhat did he mean by that?

The fact that Mr Smudge has swopped jobs with Mr Mudge may matter very little to people outside the Westminster village, but reshuffles do tell us a great deal about how a party leader sees his strengths, his weaknesses and the balance of opinion within his party.

The return of Ken Clarke reveals that David Cameron regards his inexperience as his Achilles heel. The promotion of not just Clarke but of plain-speaking northerner Eric Pickes and tough-talking Chris Grayling, alongside the unveiling of William Hague as deputy leader in all but name, suggests that the Tory leader also sees the danger of being presented as "Lord Snooty", the prefect of the Bullingdon boys.

On Europe, he has sought to reassure his party by promoting arch-sceptic Mark Francois to the Shadow Cabinet, as if Messrs Hague, Osborne, Letwin and many others weren't enough.

So beyond the presentation has anything really changed?

The answer is yes. Having invited Ken Clarke into Team Cameron, they will have no choice but to listen to him.

A stray word here, a planned intervention there, or even his resignation would be devastating for the Conservatives.

Ken Clarke has been around politics long enough, and cares enough about the future of the country, to use any one of those weapons if he felt he had to.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Your assessment of the shadow cabinet re-shuffle is somewhat over the top. It seems quite straightforward and logical for Cameron to try to make use of the best and most experienced people available. That's precisely what Brown has done in bringing back Milburn and Mandelson.

    Naturally in both cases there are obvious risks - all of these have previous form and any one of them is likely to rock the boat unexpectedly.

    The only slight surprise is that David Davis wasn't brought back.

  • Comment number 2.

    David Cameron has assembled an excellent team to salvage what is left of our economy.
    The challenges are many, but they are strong and capable and should be able to lead us back to normality.
    This team is needed to restore confidence in our system of democracy which has been so erroded over 12 years by a dysfunctional Government.

  • Comment number 3.

    The reshuffle says, Watch out James Brown I'm coming to get you and the more you cock it up the stronger the Tories will get. It shows he is putting the pressure on James Browns world.

  • Comment number 4.

    Who wouldnt have Hague in the team

    Hes very good value.

    When did you ever see anything so acurate, effective and funny .....

  • Comment number 5.

    When a pack of cards is shuffled, it denotes that either a part of the game is over, or the whole game has been completed. Having Ken Clarke in the team acts as an antidote to DC's anti-European stance. However, like all antidotes, Clarke can be kept on the side and removed if Cameron believes it is advantageous. They are all politicans, inf various stages of self-serving cunning, but returning to our metaphor of a pack of cards, they are all jokers!

  • Comment number 6.

    Sensational move by Cameron. Ken Clarke is, to adapt Blair's sycophantic phrase, the people's politician, and his bruising presence on the Opposition front bench will put the fear of God not only into his own party, but, crucially, into the rabble on the other side of the dispatch box. The weasel that is Peter Mandelson will be eaten alive by the lion that is Ken Clarke, and the Conservatives will sweep into power at the next election. Result for Cameron, result for the country!

  • Comment number 7.

    Bring on the eletion and I'd like to see Gurning Gordon explain to Cunning Ken how he destroyed the tory legacy.

    A balance hseet in 'remarkable shape' according toi the treasury was destroyed on eleven years by Grodon Brown's age of irresponsibiity.

    This will be a fantastic battle to watch; how the spinning Brown tries to wriggle out of all responisbility for the mess he has vcreated in the financial system. How exactly the tripartite sructure failed. what excatly he is planning to do with a currency nobody wants in a country no one will lend to.

    Gordon Brown vs Ken let me see who will come out worst? The gurning defensive, bad tempered Scot or ken; you choose.

    Call an election.

  • Comment number 8.

    Re: BGarvie @ 2

    "This team is needed to restore confidence in our system of democracy which has been so erroded over 12 years by a dysfunctional Government."

    During which time Labour were democratically re-elected thrice.

  • Comment number 9.

    For goodness sake Nick! Isn't it healthier to have a leader who can tolerate someone with different views than one who has such an over-inflated ego he claims to have saved the world? The present Cabinet is so suppine - or so desperate to cling onto power - that not one member seems to have the guts, at least at the moment, to tell Brown he isn't God's gift to the economy.

    However, if Labour continues to sink in the polls just watch the worms come out of the woodwork.

  • Comment number 10.

    Ken Clarke has been around politics long enough, and cares enough about the future of the country, to use any one of those weapons if he felt he had to.

    Lets hope he can ask Mandy about yacht parties.

    It could also be the case that the big "beasts" are being roused because they do know how to solve things, and it shows the depths they have to go to in order that they can declare new policies for Crash to steal and drape over himself.

  • Comment number 11.

    Is Ken Clarke planning to resign then, Nick? You're obviously in the know.

    And please tell me - who are Mr Mudge and Mr Smudge?

    We are not at kindergarten. Please do us the courtesy of treating us like adults.

  • Comment number 12.

    Darling didn't sound at all convincing. Osborne and Cable made him look pathetic

    Quantitative easing is going to happen sometime very soon. They're going to have to print a great deal, with inevitable massive further devaluation of Sterling and consequential inflation.

    Our savings, salaries and wages will be devalued. Prices will rise on all imported goods, including oil. What a mess!

    Do we hear one word of apology from the former Chancellor for his abject failure to regulate the banking sector?

    McBroon and his sorry incompetent bunch have just got to go.

  • Comment number 13.

    A bold move by Cameron. Some Tories don't like Clarke but lots on Liberals do like him.

    Could see the Lib Dems squeezed even harder.

  • Comment number 14.


    Ken Clarkes is back good he knows how to bring the British economy out of recession soundly having done it and handed it over to Brown.

    But the real elephant in the room today is the total failure of the Governments bailout and stimulus policies to work. At what cost?

    Before handing billions of tax payer?s money over to the banks for the bailout they did not do the most basic due diligence check as to how risky the bank?s balance sheets were.

    We now have to mortgage the country to the hilt to sure up the banks to create an insurance scheme.

    Seeing that no one else seems to know what questions to ask here are some.




    Also I believe that no one in this government has any idea what there are doing. Beckett yesterday said that first time buyers in the housing market could miss out on the next boom if they don't act now.
    The day before the government pushes all of our remaining chip on black to try to get the banks to lend.

    The people who are coming up with these new wheezes? are the same faces in the government and the banks that got us in to the mess. If they had any integrity they would resign.
    Someone respond to this with any forecast on the economy that Brown and Darling have got right.
    They can never produce to right policies if their forecasts are always so wide of the mark. I give you the PBR a total joke.
    We need a new government ASAP
    And it must not be Labour.
    Vote for anyone else but Labour.

  • Comment number 15.

    Sunday Times Business section readers recently voted Clarke as the best post-war Chancellor.

    Brown came ninth, if I recall correctly.

    Dave can ill afford to leave out such talent even if Clarke strays off-message occasionally - which is more important within the Westminster bubble than it is outside anyway.

    Nick makes a clever point about ameliorating the Eton toff jibe - which is something I've used to attack the Tories with - the Bullingdon boys will still be there but the presentational problem is lessened.

    All relatively trivial politics of course, the main thing is that Ken Clarke tells us that he loves a good crisis but unfortunately he is not actually in a position to do anything about it right now.

    Maybe in eighteen months or so (that is not a vote for the Tories by the way).

  • Comment number 16.

    what is tomorrows headless chicken announcement and how many billions will it cost?

  • Comment number 17.


    The big problem the tories have is that anything they do is an excuse for labour supporters to avoid talking about the almighty cockup that is our current labour government under brown.

    I am no fan of Clarke (well, as a broadcaster his jazz thing was great) but as a politician his arrogance seems unlimited.

    However Cameron seems confident that he can handle such stuborn, big beasts - and it is his call.

    I hope he is right because, national emergencies excepted, labour are going to be history after the next election - Cameron
    is going to be PM, and I hope he wont let the UK down like Blair did.

  • Comment number 18.

    You are so entrenched in the tittle tattle of the Westminster village I dont think you even know and probably dont care about what happens outside the Westminster Village.
    As a BBC employee of the taxpayer you should treat your commentaries in a far more balanced way(BBC supposed to be neutral).
    For my part I think bringing Ken Clarke back into the Shadow Cabinet is a good move.He is knowledgable and will add value.
    And please stop all your conspiracy theories about rifts in the Tory party.
    It just title tattle you get from your lords and masters at the BBC and your chums in the NuLabour party to detract from the terrible way Gordon Brown is running this country.

  • Comment number 19.


    a few questions for you to ask

    1. How much Toxic debt do the banks have on their books?
    I think we need to know this as we are now underwriting it.

    2. How much Toxic debt has the Government run up both Enron off balance sheet and on balance sheets profligate spending?

    Gordon Brown is angry with the banks due to their accounting practices and not knowing the amount of toxic assets they have.

    Yet he is shoveling more of our money their way still not knowing how much toxic debt they have.

    Brown is a hypocrite as he does not know how much toxic debt he is running up for us and future generations.

    Vince Cable has written to the chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland and Business Secretary Lord Mandelson to demand that the loan given by the bank to a company owned by Oleg Deripaska should be repaid on time.

    Mandy and the Yacht?
    Mandy and the home loan
    Rbs & Deripaska loan
    Any connections?

  • Comment number 20.

    Or alternatively, Nick, Cameron probably realises that Gordon has just had his last throw of the dice and wants a team around him who can well and truly put the boot in and win an election.

    Once the election is over, Cameron can put a team round him to get us out of the mess we're in.

    I believe in football it's called squad rotation...unfortunately for Labour the way a democracy works is that the squad can only be expanded by buying in players with Lordships if your elected team plays like the Westminster Boys Under 12s.

  • Comment number 21.

    Disappointed Nick.

    Are these the parting words you are leaving us with? You gave the distinct impression that your previous comment was to be your last for some time.

    Just when it seemed you comments were more balanced, you give us this.

    I prefer the angle that the discussions before this reshuffle resolved all obvious problems (forward planning). The statement by Ken Clarke on the pavement this morning was that he and David Cameron had agreed to disagree on the subject of Europe.

    After all the Conservative Party’s senior team has been working together for a while now and this decision is surely for the purpose of strengthening that team.

    An interesting move, I think. Ken Clarke has a relaxed manner on TV and has character. Also, he gives the impression that he cares about the Party allowing for good, healthy debate – not a one man band, as perhaps another Party might be perceived…..

    Luckily David Cameron has a choice from elected MPs – Gordon Brown has gone down the path of ennobling his choice of advisers and new members of his cabinet. Bearing in mind the number of Labour MPs, it seems odd to me that Gordon Brown has to look outside the elected members of his party. A lack of talent?

    As you say:

    ‘….reshuffles do tell us a great deal about how a party leader sees his strengths, his weaknesses and the balance of opinion within his party’.

  • Comment number 22.

    "We not only saved the world err banks"

    It seems you didn't even save the banks you halfwit that’s why you have lost billions of pounds.

    And now you have to throw even more billions at the problem with no idea of the risk of bankrupting the UK.

    In Brown Westminster really does have its village idiot.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    ....and please can you explain why all my punctuation is shown as question marks....

  • Comment number 25.


    is anyone going to stand in for you while you are away?

    I can suggest someone

    Andrew Gilligan.

    I would to see what blog topics he would come up with.

    I don't think it would be "what color underpants Dave Cameron wares to PMQ's" on a day that the government has just shackled the UK economy to a sinking Titanic.

  • Comment number 26.

    #15 John Constable


    "Sunday Times Business section readers recently voted Clarke as the best post-war Chancellor.

    Brown came ninth, if I recall correctly."

    Surely we've had more than nine Chancellors of the Exchequor since the war?

    Or is it that their readers could only remember nine?

  • Comment number 27.

    Nick Robinson needs to be binned along with his idol Gordon Brown. This is his most biased item ever .. he has no credibility , get him out along with his government mates !

  • Comment number 28.

    Nick Robinson

    From telling you that you got it exactly right on the green shoots story I have to tell you this latest entry is just plain daft.

    Cameron has realised that if and when he takes over from Brown whenever it may be, he needs the best possible team round him. This must include surely a Chancellor who has his amount of experience. If my memory serves me right you said how disastrous D. Davies's resignation would be to the Conservatives and it was not, the same as Clarke's would not be.

    A good leader should be able to recognise talent what ever the risk. A party in my opinion should be a broad church and should be able to discuss all issues not just follow the party line, and do what the leader demands, we had enough of that under Blair and Brown. Otherwise we may as well be a dictatorship.

  • Comment number 29.

    Opposition of all the talents?

    Will make a difference from the government bereft of any talent.

    Call an election

  • Comment number 30.

    Larry Lightweight certainly needs all the support he can get!!

  • Comment number 31.

    As normaly a supporter of Brown you must now be feeling pretty miffed and so a few cheap gibes at the rational for the shadow cabinet is the order of the day.

    There is a very old saying when you are in a deep hole stop digging my advice to all those who want to see a soloution to the mess is stop digging the Brown stuff most of us have now after 11 years worked out what it really is.

    Time to get on with finding some one to run the economy effectively pleased too say this Tory group are beginning to look the business if they could just persuade Vince cable to join them and then get into power, we might begin to see after a few months some little green things coming out of the earth your not catching me saying [Green shoots] I learn the lessons of history.

    Shame a few more don’t go for experienced hands as well as wise heads one is clearly no good without the other.

  • Comment number 32.

    Great image from the Commons of Osborne flanked by Clarke and Cameron giving the response to Darling's emergency statement.

    In contrast the PM was in full McAvitty mode!

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 34.

    PortcullisGate 25

    That is a great idea, Andrew Gilligan
    would be brilliant.

    I like the rest of your post too.

  • Comment number 35.

    Assessing the present situation and adapting accordingly is what Cameron has done.

    This shows that Cameron now has the experience to form the right team to tackle one hell of a task ahead.

    Osborne's questioning of Darling today was probing and relevant.
    All be it we got the same old mumbling on about it being a world crisis most of the time and no real figures or answers.
    Seems the Tories know already but are unable to tell us yet.

    Nationalising a bank which is bigger than the whole of the British economy for instance. Future losses presently unknown. And that's just one.

    For those advocating full scale nationalisation as a solution you know not what you do.

  • Comment number 36.

    I usually like playing a game of 'guess which party the various posters support' but today it's hardly worth bothering.

  • Comment number 37.

    To me this is Cameron Bolstering up his team with experienced politicians. To me I don't think the fact that Clarke is pro europe is going to cause too many problems, but it does show that he is going to speak his mind without causing any conflicts in the party.ill be a breath of fresh air for a politician to be able to stand up for what they believe rather than have to tow the party line slavishly

  • Comment number 38.


    "During which time Labour were democratically re-elected thrice."

    Depends on your view of what "democratically" means.

    35% of those who voted and 25% of the electorate was enought to give Labour a majority of 66.

    Call that democracy? Well I DON'T. [with apologies to Douglas Adams]

    It remains my view that first-past-the-post elections have become part of the problem in the UK and probably elsewhere.

    I am hoping for a hung parliament in 2010 with a strong Lib Dem showing, leading to electoral reform and some for of STV-based proportional representation.

    Only this will get us away from the New Labour / Old Tory politics we have now.

    As our friends in the USA would say, "bring it on".

  • Comment number 39.

    I'm impressed Mr Robinson. Earlier today you wrote on your blog you would not have much time to blog this week, then a few minutes later you manage to pass on Mandy's message that Clark's appointment reveals that Cameron feels inexperience as his weakness.

    Well, maybe, but it is better to acknowledge the talents of someone even if he has a strong personality and is pro-Europe. Clark sertainly left the Treasury when the UK's financed were improving, while Brown thought he left the Treasury in time to hold an election before the consequences of his tenure would become evident.

    Mr Robinson, not sure whether you thought the inexperience angle fully through. Soon Brown and Mandy will try rub shoulders with Obama, but Obama is not really that experienced, so why would Brown want to be seen with such a junior? Not that Brown's experience counts for much. Have you ever asked him why he ran a budget deficit when the going seemed good and why he let UK banks become such weak institutions.

    By the way, Obama will find out within seconds in office that cash out requires cash in, or high inflation to reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio.

  • Comment number 40.


    Sorry to hear you won't be around for a few days. On behalf of all commenters here, can I just say:

    How can you possibly not be covering [obscure conspiracy theory]?

    Why are you so obviously biased against [whatever point of view I support]?

    ZaNuLieBore ruined country bankrupt destroyed devastation. IS THIS DEMOCRACY?

    Enjoy your few days away.

  • Comment number 41.

    Nick asks, So beyond the presentation has anything really changed?

    Mmmh, eh. It reminds one of the Three Stoogies, Nick?

    Good night Nick.

  • Comment number 42.


    I've spoken with quite a few people this afternoon and no one has had anything to say against Ken's appointment. Even those on the Left said it made sense and would have done the same. Very, very popular choice.

    Can Ken contain himself over Europe? Probably not forever but by then Gordon's goose will be burnt black!

  • Comment number 43.

    Just read that license fee money will be used to guarantee dreamt-up house prices of relocating BBC staff. Very glad never paid a license fee because I did not have a tele (yes, just as backward as Clark) and also glad I moved out of the country, sold my bank shares in sept 07 (including RBS at 560!) and sold most of my pounds.

    The UK is beyond repair. The unions are bankrolling the party in government and its politics are very incestuous:
    -Milliband 2x
    -Balls and Cooper
    -the ex labour treasurer and his wife whatever
    -Alexander 2x
    -Kinnock's wife an MEP and his son at British council
    -the speaker has a son in the scottish parliament
    -Beckett employing her hubby and claiming handy curtain expenses
    -Dunwoody and her daughter
    -union leader Simpsons perks
    And me as foreigner can come up with this list. What a shambles your country is! Not that everything is ok where I am now, but it's fair to say politics are less incestuous and the system does not get gamed as much.

  • Comment number 44.

    It's a great move by Cameron to bring back the one tory politician who survived the Major administration with his repautation enhanced. He's done his stint in government and opposition so knows all the angles. It gives the Conservative team a credibility it was lacking. It also goes some way to show that the old political divides in the party over Europe are forgotten.

  • Comment number 45.

    You couldn't really make it up, could you?

    As day-by-day the free market capitalism system which they stand for COMPLETELY COLLAPSES, the ecstatic Tories come on here crying: "The future is ours!"

    The only way out of this unholy crisis, as we again see day-by-day (in EVERY advanced economy in the world), is the complete repudiation of everything the Tory Party stands for. In case you Little England Tories haven't noticed, Governments are in the process of rescuing the free market disaster which you support, and replacing it with state Keynesianism and indeed state ownership.

    Regrettably, under the Thatcherite Blair Britain went down the same extreme Tory free market road (as well as following militaristic Tory policies in Iraq and Afghanistan). That is all over now, the legacy of Reagan and Thatcher completely bankrupt and spent.

    The future may be many things (Obama social democracy most probably) - but it is absolutely certainly not Tory.

  • Comment number 46.

    #7, RobinJD, yes, I agree - it's time people started to take responsibility for this disastrous mess we're in and I think Ken Clarke is the man to start the ball rolling.

    I think Alastair Darling's hiding at the moment, perhaps he'll be joined by Gordon Brown in the not too distant future.

  • Comment number 47.

    8. At 4:03pm on 19 Jan 2009, chrisleopard wrote:
    Re: BGarvie @ 2

    "This team is needed to restore confidence in our system of democracy which has been so erroded over 12 years by a dysfunctional Government."

    During which time Labour were democratically re-elected thrice.


    Actually they were re-elected twice.

  • Comment number 48.

    Good to see Cameron bring in Clarke along with the other changes he has made.

    At least he isn't lumbered with having to bring back the failed/discredited Labour politicians that Brown so apparently has to resort to re-appointing to the Cabinet. A prime example of that is Mrs Beckett's 'green shoots' in the property market this weekend!

    The Government has a total dearth of able MPs etc to run this country, which has MUCH to do with our being in the mess in which we are currently mired.

    The sooner we see an election called, so much the better will we all be for it. BUT, whoever wins next time around will have one hell of a job to get our economy back on track.

  • Comment number 49.


    I think that Cameron means he wants the Conservatives to win the next election.

    Going by the current performance of the Labour government this is a reasonable proposition.

    Picking up the pieces once Mr. Brown has had his nail bitten fingers prised from the architrave of No10 will be a huge task. If Cameron feels up to it he is welcome.

    My earlier expectation of a hung Parliament and a possible coalition is receding the longer Mr. Brown stays in charge.

    Will the down-trodden Parliamentary Labour Party finally rebel? Now there's a story? If they want to ensure the survival of their party they had better hurry up.

  • Comment number 50.

    Very disappointing Nick.

    Have you nothing to say about the massive bank bail-out Mk II announced today, and the fact that the government are running around like headless chickens spending ever more of our money, and James Brown saying he is very cross with the naughty bankers for not telling the whole truth?

    Pot - kettle-black.

  • Comment number 51.


    your comments are so biased that it shows you are a partisan member of the brown broadcasting corporation.

  • Comment number 52.


    Watch out: when there are desperate times, you need desperate measures. Bringing Ken Clarke back to the front bench of the Tories is , at best, interesting. I like Ken as a personality. I would have him lead the Tory party before Webcameron any day. When he starts to talk about the economy his experience will certainly make Osborne's incompetence look more obvious.

    Ken will bring back memories of how poor the last Tory government was. Remember they were terrible. It was a Tory government with Ken Clarke near the top that we voted out because they were so bad.

    Of course, I smile when statements are made like 'David Cameron and I have never had any problems at all on any other subject and we just know we disagree on Europe', - of course Europe will not be a problem - it's the Global Economic Crisis - stupid.

  • Comment number 53.


    do know you if there is a big genealogy push in New Labour to find if Brown is related to Obama? They may be Bros?

    Brown is going to be rubbing up so close to Obama over the next 6 months it will be embarrassing.
    All in a hope that we will forget the mire he has driven us into.

  • Comment number 54.

    Ken Clarke is one of the few Tories (or any recent politician) I have ever had any time for. Why? Because you know what you are going to get from him. What I hope is that with him around the Tories will be able to get some coherent policies together. With the stronger team Cameron is building around him, for the first time I think a change of government would be a good idea. Not because the policies are any more certain to work, but because a change would seem like a new beginning with the optimism that brings. Cameron and Osbourne without the some of the experienced old guard just do not bring that weight of optimism.

    The question however is not whether his reappearance is a good thing for the Tories, but is it a good thing for the country? And here is the conundrum. The more effective the Tories are in opposition, the less likely we are to have an early election and the less likely Labour MPs will ditch Brown. Therein lies the danger for the Tories - will the green shoots start to appear and be they enough to convince the public that Gordon was the right man after all? No one can answer that with honesty and certainty.

  • Comment number 55.

    "I heard a rumour that Alistair Darling might resign.

    This could be devastating to Labour"

    Of course I haven't - so why mention it? Well Nick Robinson Started it.

  • Comment number 56.

    Not the most flattering of pictures.

    Still, as someone previously posted about even voting for a pig's head on a stick to get rid of Gordon - looks like you may have the chance!

  • Comment number 57.

    Yes. Yes Yes, Great reshuffle - Some brains and big guns. The country is facing a serious problems we need now, and in years to come, all the best men to save us from this current government`s policies

  • Comment number 58.

    Oh Dear Nick, has wearing that flap jacket made you suffer from heatstroke?. Your blogpost is a complete load of nonsense.

  • Comment number 59.

    #38 seems to be advocating PR and the end of the Labour/Tory duopoly.

    I support the objective, but if you studied Israeli politics you would realise that the PR system has given an inordinate amount of influence to fringe (euphemism for extreme) parties with frequent general elections encouraging populist and poorly thought out policies. I prefer oscillating around a soggy middle even if neither of the major parties is entirely convincing or entirely useless.

  • Comment number 60.

    Mr Robinson,

    Why didn't you write anything today about whta you in your circle see as fact: Gordon has saved the world for the second time today. And, given the spin stating that the recession is all US's fault, is global, its length dependent on measures taken abroad, Brown has saved the world without any allies. So he's outdone Chuchill now. I understand why you're such a fan of this government.

    PS the use of taxpayer money to guarantee value of relocated BBC staff is even more hideous if staff buy a property in their new location. Guess the cultural secretary signed off on that one provided you produce a certian amount of favourable comments, just like Brown will only help the banks that will lend, so sensible given declining house prices, rising unemployment and inventories piling up.

  • Comment number 61.

    George Osborne must be looking over his shoulder,and with good reason.
    Ken Clarke has forgotton more than he will ever know.

  • Comment number 62.

    I agree with #13.

    I see this reshuffle as a move to make the Tories more favourable as a partner to the Lib Dems in the (not that unlikely) case of a hung parliament.

    A pro- Europe Ken Clarke, is surely an attempt to ensure that Europe is not discussed by the Tories, removing one potential bone with the Lib Dems.

    Hague is almost certainly going to get another shot at Tory leadership sooner or later, and is brilliant in parliament. It makes sense to have him at your right hand.

    That said, I doubt GB will be too worried about all this- attacks on 'posh-Bullingdon' Tories didn't work in the by-elections (and surely won't resurface in the general election?), where as talking about economic solutions to a global crisis has helped Labour.

  • Comment number 63.

    #45 Novoludo ~ you really couldn't make it up could you - after 11 years of Labour government they are still blaming Tory policy !

    It wasn't Tony Blair who 'sexed up a dossier' and took the country to war - it was Tory policy ~ WHAT ? !

    The legacy of Thatcher and Reagan is completely bankrupot and spent ! ~ No you blinkered luddite - The country is bankrupt and spent by a Labour chancellor and his borow borrow borrow policy and his putting off until tomorrow what he can't sort out today.

    The man has sold off the legacy of the country to the lowest bidder.

  • Comment number 64.

    Why is Robinson carryng on about this piffling thing when the country is imploding under Gordon the Golem?
    Has he strict orders from No 10 to focus on the Tories instead of the Golem's latest disaster?
    It's the economy, stupid, now write about it and how it is devastating the Golem.

  • Comment number 65.

    Amazing how we have to concentrate on this issue

    Do you think the government is already under enough pressure with the current city comment on their bank bail out?

    Maybe now is the time to ask about those MP expenses?

    Or the legislation that allows for £50 per bin, and spys in the bin?

    Or maybe even the raising of council tax by above inflation amounts at a time when the budget deficit is growing by the second in spiralling numbers?

    Nothing like giving the government a hard time

    An important political issue I grant, but we have to see if he can actually disembowel Mandy first, but only one comment on such a momentous day.

    Maybe things are happening too fast now for the 24 hours to remain consistent.

  • Comment number 66.

    45. At 5:47pm on 19 Jan 2009, novoludo wrote:
    You couldn't really make it up, could you?

    As day-by-day the free market capitalism system which they stand for COMPLETELY COLLAPSES, the ecstatic Tories come on here crying: "The future is ours!"

    The only way out of this unholy crisis, as we again see day-by-day (in EVERY advanced economy in the world), is the complete repudiation of everything the Tory Party stands for. In case you Little England Tories haven't noticed, Governments are in the process of rescuing the free market disaster which you support, and replacing it with state Keynesianism and indeed state ownership.

    Regrettably, under the Thatcherite Blair Britain went down the same extreme Tory free market road (as well as following militaristic Tory policies in Iraq and Afghanistan). That is all over now, the legacy of Reagan and Thatcher completely bankrupt and spent.


    "You couldn't really make it up, could you?"

    But you have had a good try, haven't you!

    Pardon me for asking, but wasn't Tony Blair a Labour PM? Hasn't James Brown been in chage of the economy (notionally speaking of course) for the last 12 years?

    If the free market road is that bad why didn't they change it during the last 12 years?

    And why is it that China and Russia have embraced the free market economy then?

    The only thing this Government is trying to rescue is its ruined reputation.

  • Comment number 67.

    Good to see the tories running onto this forum to put in the first comments. However, this is a risk, as Ken Clarke is a popular chap, but is very much the opposite of Cameron.

    Ken Clarke sticks to his guns, and will not change his stance for PR purposes unlike Cameron.

    He does have gravitas, but also a few follies (i.e. his chairmanship of BAT). This move further undermines Osbourne, as its obvious KC will be used more on economic issues going forward.

    I guess KC makes up for Camerons failings in terms of being trustworthy and a 'flip flopper'.

  • Comment number 68.

    @ weejonnie (55)

    Why would Darling resign? He can only get cleverer after making the mistake to takeover from Brown who made such a success of his economic stewardship. It is always difficult to fill big boots, but it is even more difficult to fill the wholes by someone who walked around with too (yes,"too") big boots.

    By the way, it was Cameron's half decent performance at the conservative conference in the autumn of 2007 that put a spanner into Brown's wheels. Brown eyed an election late 2007 early 2008 and was therefore running a budget deficit and getting doves like Blanchflower onto the MPC of the BoE (we now also have a government-owned BoS called RBS).

  • Comment number 69.

    Sadly, we can blog what we want here, but Brown is still doing well with his personal finances, thanks to us. Brown will get a huge pension, indexed (and we will get massive inflation at some stage to reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio). He will get the pension even if he looses the election. It's sickening. And the guy even moved into Nr 10 while Blair was still in office (has he published he expenses re the makeover?). There is no point working for the private sector with this quality of government. What's the point? Talent will leave the UK. Game over!

    PS although I have left the UK and sold my bank shares in sept 07 I do not consider myself as having any talent. I just moved back where I came from. BUT I AM ANGRY WHEN POLITICIANS ABUSE THE SYSTEM SO MUCH WITHOUT IT HAVING ANY FINANCIAL CONSEQUENCES FOR THEM!!

  • Comment number 70.

    I find it interesting to compare this and the earlier blog with Nick's examination of the decision to appoint Mandelson to the Cabinet.

    Not entirely convinced the balance is the same in both cases. No doubt others will make up their own minds.

  • Comment number 71.

    52. At 5:55pm on 19 Jan 2009, nerdsunited wrote:

    Watch out: when there are desperate times, you need desperate measures. Bringing Ken Clarke back to the front bench of the Tories is , at best, interesting. I like Ken as a personality. I would have him lead the Tory party before Webcameron any day. When he starts to talk about the economy his experience will certainly make Osborne's incompetence look more obvious.

    Ken will bring back memories of how poor the last Tory government was. Remember they were terrible. It was a Tory government with Ken Clarke near the top that we voted out because they were so bad.


    That would be the Ken Clarke whose spending plans James Brown agreed to follow for the first 2 years, and who was responsible for 18 out of 50 quarters of continued growth that Brown boasted about in 2005,

  • Comment number 72.

    Too much of the comment on here is incredibly narrow and parochial, basically little more than the gossips and hopes of the Westminster Village.

    The bigger historical picture is actually rather clear. We are now entering the third major economic and political postwar cycle.

    The first ran from 1945 to roughly the mid 1970s, was inaugurated by the statist postwar policies of the Attlee Government (preceded by the FDR New Deal), and featured the acceptance of a very major role for Government in the economy. There was broad consensus across the major political parties ('Butskellism' on one definition) of this political disposition.

    This disposition and consensus was shattered in the mid 1970s, as a result of the oil shock, rampant inflation, and an imbalance between capital and labour (i.e. trade unions were too powerful and capital went on strike). This ushered in the Reagan / Thatcher years (with similar ideological movements across the world), which continued until 2008. The consensus was that Government was the problem, massive inequality was fine, labour markets needed to be 'freed', and regulation of markets needed to be minimalist. Clinton and Blair were basically fellow travellers of this consensus (as Heath and Nixon were of the previous one).

    This consensus was completely and irrevocably shattered last year. No-one can credibly now maintain any of the shibboleths of the age of extreme free market capitalism. When governments across the world are rescuing the heart of capitalism - its financial sector - that system has decisively failed.

    What comes next is not clear. The countries emerging most strongly from the current apocalypse - France, Germany, Spain - are the ones who did not drink the entire capitalist kool aid.

    Two possibilities seem most likely. One is that - as in the 1930s - we will unfortunately see extreme statist nationalism, if not fascism. More hopefully we will see the kind of leftist social democracy that Barack Obama (and mainstream opinion in France and Germany and most of continental Europe) support.

    Assuredly we will not see - unless they go in for the most extraordinary political cross-dressing - right of centre Toryism. That political ideology is now as dead as Soviet Communism.

  • Comment number 73.

    Why were these experienced heavies left out to date to trash this useless Labour government before ?

    That shows a weakness in the Tory Party belief in itself.

  • Comment number 74.

    I gave the BBC the benefit of the doubt and watched the evening News. Pure Conjecture! I shant be watching again.

  • Comment number 75.

    Nick, reading your text I have to disagree strongly with your view that 'Cameron regards his inexperience as his Achilles heel..'

    If you really believe that Labspeak then shame on you!

    This government is now so far up its own posterior that the opposition benches need to be filled with people who can ridicule this bunch of self-serving idiots.

    That you cannot see this, or, if you do, cannot bring yourself to say it, puts you up there with the wally club.

    Where is CEH when we need his Zen calming?

  • Comment number 76.

    Britain will suffer worst slump in Europe, warns Commission in damning report

    "Britain will suffer the steepest economic slump of any major European economy this year, the European Commission has warned.
    Output will tumble 2.8 per cent in 2009, more than twice the Treasury’s forecasts, it said in a damning report.
    That compares with a decline of 1.9 per cent across the euro area, the Commission said in its ‘Interim Forecasts’.
    Partly as a result, UK government debt will skyrocket to 72 per cent of the economy by next year – or over £1trillion.
    Of the western European economies, only Ireland will suffer a deeper recession, with its output tumbling by 5 per cent.
    Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are the other three laggards, each contracting by at least 4 per cent."


    They obviously haven't been listening to James Brown, Britain is supposedly uniquely well-placed to come out of this recession.

  • Comment number 77.

    Nick 'I definitely do not vote Labour, honestly, I do not vote Labour, please believe me' Robinson

  • Comment number 78.


    There are some people who can never see reality and some who are easily manipulated.

    As Marvin Gaye said

    "Believe half of what you see and some of none of what you hear"

    I view Osbourne from what I have seen.

    Labour and especially Brown spent most of last year with the worst poll rating ever.
    This was due in large part to Osbourne conference speech that caught the public’s imagination and made Brown bottle the election. Then steal all of the policies he had announced

    Nick and the hacks get the fact that he had a discussion with the oligarch
    about a donation that he did not accept. (Which they have still not done for Mandy the 3 time looser).

    Then the spin peddlers try to drag him down with 'Boy George' and other such puerile rubbish.

    Then I see the PBR response
    "Labour has done it again all Labour governments end up running out of money".
    It was devastating, ask a Labour MP in secret they may tell you the truth.
    Brown was squirming doing his smiling wind ridden gorilla routine.

    Then, sat next to Clarke in the commons today.
    Perfection he deviated the Muppets who dared to turn up. No headless chicken Brown you will notice.

    So you keep swallowing the spin and I will continue to believe my own eyes.

  • Comment number 79.

    One thing is sure: this reshuffle has created panic among the NewSocialists. 77 posts and no sign of Derek and his jokes. They are working overtime with Mandy and Campbell trying to agree on the strategy and the catchphrases. No amusing reading on this blog tonight. By the way does anybody know where the other Wikipedia researcher is? (Charles H..) Disappeared in thin air.

  • Comment number 80.

    Yellowbelly and Secret Love - I know my views are not very palatable to your cosy and single view of the world ('Gordon Brown has on his own wrecked the UK economy following socialist policies'), but you might at least try to pay attention to what I said. Trying again for the slow-minded....

    One: ALL major western economies are currently in severe crisis (do you dispute this?). So it can't really be all Gordon's fault, can it?

    Two: Blair / Brown followed rather extreme right wing economic policies, minimising government intervention and minimally regulating markets (following dutifully the Thatcher Playbook). I have no idea why they did this (personally I thought Thatcherism was pretty stupid the first time around), but this is what they did. So it can't really be that leftist LABOUR policies have now failed, can it, since they weren't tried?

    Three: Free market capitalism, as ideologically triumphant since the mid seventies, has now obviously failed. Can you possibly deny this? Most of the world's banks (Citi, BoA, Allied Irish, Commerz, RBS etc. etc. etc.), not just in the UK, would have gone under if governments had not saved them. Is this the triumph of capitalism which should usher in the next Tory Government? I don't think so!

    It is indeed possible that Cameron may just win the next election based on the utter disaster of the right wing policies followed by Brown / Blair. But what on earth will Cameron do? The capitalist cupboard is bare, it is out of ideas, it has failed. Do you think Obama is going to bang on about minimising government and freeing markets? I think not. Thank God we now have a leftist in charge in the US. He may just save us from the right wing Bush / Blair insanity which has been practised over the past ten years.

  • Comment number 81.

    I do agree with Nick, bringing back Ken will make for interesting times. Strangely the party where he is least popular is his own.

    Stating the obvious it will be Europe that creates the fireworks at some time over the next 15 months, I can see once again the majority of Tories dusting off those pound sign lapell badges as the whole Euro debate re-surfaces.

    Personally I have no strong feelings either way, if a case is developed that convinces me it is in the country's interest to join then I'm for it. Therein lies the Tories achiles heel because they are ideologically "nationalist" when it comes to currency and Ken isn't and he won't sell-out on this if he thinks joining the Euro makes sense.

    Who will the floating voters find most appealing when the fly weight Osbourne desperately waiting for his voice to break, argues against the Euro when Clarke, Cable and Brown all say it is in the National Economic interest to join?

  • Comment number 82.

    Well done, Nick, you managed to get in both of your labour masters' spin on this topic; "Lord Snooty" and "Inexperienced"

    I assume you've simply given mandelson your login userid/pwd and are now letting him type in your blog himself with you just sitting back having a nice cuppa on a sofa and nodding at him while he types things into your blog under your name.

    "Inexperienced" - is that what people are saying are the weak points of Obama too? Oh, no, they're not saying that about obama because he surrounds himself with lots of different experts and takes advice and then makes his own judgement based on reason/logic/compassion/advice, which anyone else with any sense would also do regardless of their own experience.

    Shock news; Cameron hires someone who knows what they're talking about. Obviously the BBC sees that as a bad idea because it boosts the tories' likelihood of winning the next election and makes it even more apparent how totally without talent the labour front bench is.

    Where are Brown's experts? He has none; he thinks he's an expert in everything yet he's an idiot on every subject.

    Lord Snooty and a novice; you've outdone yourself nick; get your coat, you might as well just hand your keys straight to mandelson.

  • Comment number 83.

    Hello yellowbelly.

    Yes most incoming new governments will go with the previous spending plans, unless you want to cut spending.

    It's not about going with spending plans, it's about where you direct those spending costs.

    A couple of points about Kens return.

    1St. Osborne now backs the stimulus, so the tories really didn't have a plan? Ken has basically told them there is no other way.

    2nd. Cameron has over shot on the promise of an EU referendum, most back benchers on the tory side would have expected any such referendum to have an opt out question, so returning Ken to the fold means there will probably be no referendum on the EU, it would simply split the tories like it did in the 90's.

    Yellowbelly, quantitative easing more than likely now.

  • Comment number 84.

    Susan-Croft wrote:

    thanks for your point about my post's

    I have been watching this government for a few years knowing they were leading us into and bad situation but never did I believe that any government could be so blinded by their own publicity.

    I'm not really one for this sort of blogging thing but seeing the bias in most media I thought it was time to stand up and be counted.

    The state we are in is like we are mid Atlantic in mid winter in a part of the ocean that is 5 miles deep.
    We are on a boat called the Titanic. We have just hit a huge ice berg and the first mate is running around saying everything is sound and we just need some bailing out.

    The problem is the Captain has lost the plot locked himself on the bridge and we can’t get his foot off the gas.

  • Comment number 85.

    Yes, definitely smart moves. To me it always seemed perverse that at a time when the Tories should have had the country at their feet they derailed and despun the Davis leadership bid and retrenched behind a group of public school, Home Counties Hooray Henries who only a comedian could love.

    Their problem now is to distance themselves from this image and the association with Men in Red Braces, especially at a time when NuLabour - no longer friends of the working man - are yet again capitulating to their friends in the City. Hague, Pickles et al are relatively untainted by such associations and I suspect will play well down at the Kings Head. Even Clarke, his europhilia notwithstanding, comes accross as a guy you could argue with down at the pub.

    Meanwhile the return of Mandy and Milburn suggests NuLabour infighting and the abandonment of an early election. For the Conservatives the really smart move would be for Cameron to decide to spend more time with his family at the same time that Davis decided to spend less with his.

  • Comment number 86.

    It seems the European Commission doesn't have as much faith in Brown as he would like to think.

    Negative inflation, no export benefit due to the weak pound, GDP contracting by 2.8& this year, unemployment up to 8.2%, and borrowing up to 72% of GDP

    "Britain is forecast by Brussels to experience two quarters of negative inflation in the last half of this year, but this will not amount to an annual judgment of deflation in 2009, said Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s economic and monetary affairs commissioner.

    “In annual terms in 2009, inflation [in Britain] according to our forecast is 0.1 per cent and next year 1.1 per cent,” said Mr Almunia this morning.

    “The situation is more worrying in public finance because the UK had not consolidated public finances during the good times,” he added.

    “According to our forecasts and also the British government forecasts, their situation in deficit and debt will deteriorate very rapidly.”

    The European Commission report also suggested that Britain’s manufacturing base was now too small to take advantage of the weak pound. “Despite the sharp fall in the effective exchange rate over 2007-8, net external demand will provide only limited support to growth in 2009, given the weakening of growth in UK export markets. Output is likely to show only a modest recovery in 2010, with annual growth of one quarter of one per cent. Given the pronounced fall in output, the unemployment rate is likely to rise to around 8 per cent this year.”

  • Comment number 87.

    I really do not think that the electorate in general are that interested. Same old conservatives shuffling the same old cards, same old bunfight, different words every wednesday at 11:30am.

    They look accross the pond and see something to get excited about.

    This country has a good track record of 'cometh the hour cometh the man'. But I just dont see it this time. This shuffle is the shuffle of the deck at the over 80's bridge club on a wet sunday afternoon compared to the excitement in the states. Who cares?

    Actually that is really dangerous for the country because in the gathering storm we will really need an inspiring figure to get behind and provide a bit of vision, a mitigation against the suffering that is to come.

    I actually like David Cameron a lot but he was the tories answer to Tony Blair, he is not the battle hardened pragmatist, patriot and visionary we will need.

    Where does that leave us?


  • Comment number 88.


    Hello Derek, right on cue.

    Quantatative easing has already started, started last September in fact.

    Also, what is the situation of the Treasury buying private company corporate bonds directly so that they can raise finance, is that not quantatative easing, as well?

  • Comment number 89.


    Who's political blog do we need to look at and comment on for the storm that the boy Milliband is creating out in India and Pakistan?

  • Comment number 90.

    80. At 7:56pm on 19 Jan 2009, novoludo wrote:
    Yellowbelly and Secret Love - I know my views are not very palatable to your cosy and single view of the world ('Gordon Brown has on his own wrecked the UK economy following socialist policies'), but you might at least try to pay attention to what I said. Trying again for the slow-minded....

    One: ALL major western economies are currently in severe crisis (do you dispute this?). So it can't really be all Gordon's fault, can it?


    Never said that. He is responsible for Britain's crisis though, he has been in charge of the economy for the last 12 years. A little humility from him would not go amiss, instead he seems unable to admit to any mistakes, constantly blaming other, and lying about the rest of the world following his lead, when they clearly are not.

    Also, he does not see the irony of his comments today about being angry with the banks for not disclosing the true level of their debts, when he will not disclose the true cost to us of the bank bailout, the cost of public sector pensions, or the true cost of PFI initiatives.

    Pot, kettle, black.

  • Comment number 91.

    Fingertapper: "a time when the Tories should have the country at their feet..."

    Let's take this slowly... an extreme free market experiment has been tried over the last thirty years, and it has resulted in what is shaping up to be the worst global economic disaster for centuries. The heart of capitalism - its banks (this is called "capitalism" remember!) - have essentially collapsed across the world. Quite likely the entire banking system will have to be nationalised - er, like Labour's old Clause Four advocated, but a bit more comprehensive and extreme (we never expected to have to nationalise ALL the banks).

    Now help me.. this is the time when the traditionally free market capitalist party should have the country at their feet?? Wait a second...

    Actually, the Tories have no future as a governing party of any kind unless they move towards the centre and basically abandon right wing Toryism and become social democrats. No party which advocates markets and denigrates governments has a hope of being consistently in power for at least the next twenty years. People are not that stupid. Bankers and businessmen (i.e. traditional Tories) are not going to be trusted by the electorate for at least a generation.

  • Comment number 92.

    29. , RobinJD wrote:
    Opposition of all the talents?

    Will make a difference from the government bereft of any talent.

    Call an election

    Good evening RobinD,

    Your short, but erudite comment got me thinking.

    Matthew 25: 14-30 The Parable of The Talents. Alas, the son of the manse has failed to take important lessons to heart.

  • Comment number 93.

    Time for Mandy to regrow that fetching little mustache he used to sport all those years ago at the start of the NuLabour Project — indeed, may I suggest another larger one for McStalin?

    With our democratically elected and Churchillian Big Ken back in action, the 'gathering [economic] storm' scenario will be complete. It's enough to get one digging (or voting) for Victory.

  • Comment number 94.

    82: "Inexperienced" - is that what people are saying are the weak points of Obama too?"

    yes, they are - its the chief criticism that Obama's opponents and critics use. just have a look at some of the articles following the nomination and election campaigns.

    this constant criticism of Robinson - saying that Cameron is worried about appearing to be a nove - its hardly rocket science, of course he is. its not spin - its plain fact

  • Comment number 95.

    ha ha good to see RobinJD is still calling for an election. never gets old that line

  • Comment number 96.

    Yellowbelly - I agree with you! Of course Blair / Brown are responsible for our mess. The same as Bush and all our other political leaders are responsible for the mess. None of them across the world should have been following such ludicrously extreme free market policies. Like the US, we are in worse shape than, say, France or Germany, because we followed even more stupid and extreme free market policies.

    Now we will learn. And one thing we will learn is not to elect right wing governments for quite a while. That is the good news. Thank God for Obama.

  • Comment number 97.

    Talking of Andrew Gilligan, I understand the Government has a bail out that can hit the economy in just 45 minutes.

  • Comment number 98.

    i can only hope, though with little conviction, that Nick's "training" is a course on how to be a politically neutral journalist when employed by the BBC...!
    Todays blog is a disgrace, the government is in tatters and the best he can do is snipe about the opposition....

  • Comment number 99.

    Hi Nick

    With what is going on in the world of finance this is hardly the news of the day is it? How about something on the financial crisis and the problems which there must be in the Laboour ranks? Whilst they are not doing very well they are in government.

    Let me see; having proclaimed he has saved the banks our PM now needs a second go only 3 months later and he announces virtually no details. Or a new Tory business secretary.

    Which is the real political news?

  • Comment number 100.


    "Thank God we now have a leftist in charge in the US."

    Ha, ha, ha. That made me laugh.


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