“This #reshuffle is about putting in place a team that continues to deliver the long term economic plan & ensures a brighter future for all,” declared the Prime Minister following the most dramatic reshuffle since MacMillan dismissed a third of his Cabinet in 1962.
The Party is now focused on winning the next election. As a Number 10 source tells us about the Tory manifesto process, “we know what we want to achieve in the next Parliament, we just need to figure out how to go about it.”
A number of the women appointed (Amber Rudd and Anna Soubry) are in marginal seats, and these moves will hopefully improve the chances of these promising MPs continuing their nascent careers.
So how will this reshuffle go about winning the Party the next election? For roughly two years, the Conservatives have been sitting around 32% in the polls and desperately need to lift themselves off this bedrock to succeed next May.
The Conservatives feel that they’ve done enough to deserve a second term in Government, so now the objective is to clearly explain the achievements of this Government, convey what will be delivered by the next, and to expose the claims of their opponents.
At the top, Michael Gove. Whilst the benefits of reform burn slowly, public reaction is gunpowder. According to YouGov, Gove sits in the 100th percentile of negative feeling amongst the public. Quite simply, voters don’t like him and there’s been a 42% swing from Tories to Labour in teacher voting intentions. Cameron will be hoping that it was Gove, rather than the Party, putting them off. His replacement, Nicky Morgan, is highly capable, likeable and most importantly, doesn’t trigger a negative reaction just at the sight of her.
William Hague was a surprising announcement but without his Ministerial duties, he will now be a formidable campaigning tool in the run-up to May 2015. His replacement, Phil Hammond, was lined up to be Chief Secretary to the Treasury before 2010 and performed superbly on the last electoral trail, carrying the flag for deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility. UKIP now has a true adversary in Hammond, who last year said that he’d leave the EU if a referendum took place that day. In 2010, he sat in studios and made a convincing argument about the Conservatives’ ability to be trusted with the economy, now he has to do it with Europe.
Whilst it’s easy to accuse the Tories of cynically appointing so many women at this time, Cameron clearly feels that the next ten months are a shop window for the next Government. Esther McVey will be disappointed to have missed out on a promotion, but one Downing Street source says, “she will be on the telly all the time, and rewarded next year if it all goes to plan”. Additionally a number of the women appointed (Amber Rudd and Anna Soubry) are in marginal seats, and these moves will hopefully improve the chances of these promising MPs continuing their nascent careers.
The electorate has been through a difficult five years. In 2010, Cameron assembled a cabinet which would make the difficult decisions and the Party had to show it had experience, resolve and determination. As the storm clouds recede, the Party now needs to show that it has fresh ideas, ambition and aspiration. Now that the dust has settled, it’s time for the real work to begin.