The absurd cabinet merry-go-round

20 Jul 2014

Unsurprisingly, David Cameron’s cabinet reshuffle has dominated political journalism over the last week. With big names ushered out and new faces brought in, it’s the political equivalent of football’s ‘transfer deadline day’.

Many of you reading this will yourselves be political nuts and will I'm sure have been involved in the media furore in one way or another. But take a step back and view it from the perspective of disenchanted Joe Bloggs, who more than ever feels cut-off from the MPs who are the subject of the debate. 

 

What a farce the reshuffle must seem to him. David Cameron makes no attempt to hide the political motivation behind his changes. Senior politicians in charge of the country’s most important institutions switched up in the blink of an eye in a bid to win the 2015 general election. It’s exactly why people can’t stand politics, because politics is once again put before the national interest.

In any other profession, such a turnover in top positions would be inconceivable. There it’s about finding those who are best qualified and giving them enough time in the role to have an influence. This reshuffle has been about politicians holding onto their jobs after next year. 

In support of my argument, let’s start with Education. Whatever your opinion of Michael Gove, he had been in the job since 2010 and many of his ideas had been implemented as policy. Why was he booted out? Had his policies resulted in falling grades and failing schools? Is the education system in turmoil? No. He’s gone because the Conservatives are worried about how teachers will vote and they want him to have a bigger role with the media in the election run-up (the media just happen to adore him).

Perhaps Joe Bloggs could understand it if his replacement was a better qualified, highly successful former teacher with actual knowledge of how schools work. We can assume Nicky Morgan is highly talented, but there doesn’t seem a great deal of experience in education on the former solicitor’s CV.

Let’s take another big department – the Foreign Office. Outgoing we have political stalwart William Hague. For almost 10 years he has served as either the shadow or actual foreign secretary but has announced he will leave Parliament after the election. Rather than see out his time in the role in which he now has formidable experience, Mr Cameron wants him by his side for the election and has switched him to Leader of the Commons.

Incoming is Philip Hammond who, since entering parliament in 1997, has spread his time across health, trade and industry, the treasury, transport and defence. Keeping track of international affairs in that time can hardly have been a priority.

A similar point can be made about new Environment Secretary Liz Truss, whose short Westminster career has appeared to focus largely on childcare and education, rather than food production and sustainable development. 

My complaint is not with those being brought in. Unlike some other cynical commentators I am pleased to see an increase in the number of women in the cabinet and I don’t feel the need to question their individual talents. On this point, my only hope is the Cabinet becomes entirely reflective of society, sooner rather than later. 

My issue is the lack of continuity in these vital roles. My concern is that the requirements of these jobs and the importance of having the best people in place are completely ignored in favour of securing votes. My frustration is that this will put even more people off politics. 

By Rob Cox

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