Reshuffles are rather strange affairs. They are a little like relying on your sat nav without previously consulting a map as sometime you end up where you don’t want to be.
This latest effort is more a tribute act to the goings on at Madame Cynthia Payne’s Ambleside Avenue brothel where pillars of the establishment paid (with luncheon vouchers) to be humiliated. “I have been a very naughty boy and need to be punished” would whimper a high court judge dressed in a French Maid’s outfit whilst being booted in the goolies by a twenty stone dominatrix. But in the almost cruel humiliation of Raab Johnson has made a bitter and dangerous enemy, perhaps even a mortal one. It has been briefed that the Deputy Prime Ministership was a worthless last minute fig leaf to hide his shame. I suspect that Raab regrets that he just didn’t resign. And he has no interest in the MOJ. If he had any sense he would make it his legacy to save the criminal justice system which is on its knees. He won’t. His obsession will be to scrap the Human Rights Act. I really do hope that I am wrong on both counts.
And then there is the appointment of Liz Truss as Foreign Secretary. Yes, I know. The plus side is that on her first day briefing she will learn that Kashmir is not where her sweaters come from and that Sinai is not the plural of sinus. This is a woman who is fiercely ambitious and certainly not a team player. Her appointment is not unlike putting Edward Scissorhands in charge of a balloon factory. If Johnson thinks she is controllable……..
Let us not forget the appointment for that political Titan Nadine Dorries to DCMS. Thank heavens this is a backwater job. She only has to handle such trifling matters as the future of the BBC and the privatisation of Channel 4. What could possibly go wrong?
Now I have dealt with the comedy appointments let’s have a look at the more sensible ones. Gove will be brilliant at Communities and will cut though the issues like a knife through butter. Zahawi is a fixer and will be a welcome adornment to Education which needs fixing. And Dowden is the perfect choice as party chairman in the run up to an election. He is the insider’s insider and knows how the party ticks, or rather doesn’t. Expect some big changes. The first one must be to give his co chair, Ben Elliott, more time to spend at White’s and Annabell’s.
Today we have the junior middle ranking appointments. Quite sensibly, Tony Blair never bothered with these and I suspect Johnson will leave them to his Chief Whip, the now rather powerful Mark Spencer. They will just be window dressing to show how dynamic and diverse the government has become.
Now a word about Robert Buckland. If ever there was a thoroughly decent and competent minister who was respected by his department and the legal profession and the judiciary it is him. It is unprecedented that a permanent Secretary publicly thanked a minster for all of his work. Buckland just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. His days in government are not yet over. And he will has nothing but respect and quite a lot of sympathy from colleagues.
One of the new elements of this reshuffle was the invention of the naughty step. Priti Patel and Ben Wallace were publicly paraded marching to Number 10 as a humiliation. It was, ‘I am not sacking you…. yet’.
An intriguing final twist is that Number 10 decided to issue a statement making it clear that Carrie had no part in the reshuffle, which means that she did. I have absolutely no problems with this at all as she has far more political sense than her husband will ever have.