Reshuffle: bad news for the 70-somethings?
David Cameron is squeezing a visit to the Paralympics in between various meetings and chats on the reshuffle. One cabinet minister said that the message he’d picked up from the PM was that, with only one major reshuffle planned in the whole parliament, David Cameron was looking to put in place a team that would go through to the next general election.
You must think that spells bad news for two over 70s in the administration – Ken Clarke, the justice secretary, and Sir George Young, the leader of the house. It could also change the metrics for the decision on who should be health secretary. The rationale for keeping Andrew Lansley in place was that it would look like an admission of policy failure to move him. But if you’re looking at all this through the lens of “who would best sell NHS policy to the public” then the man who baffles even some of his own civil servants with management system jargon suddenly looks more vulnerable.
I’m told civil servants have their eyes on one minister in particular: Francis Maude, who’s been at the head of some pretty challenging and unpopular reforms of the senior civil service. One civil servant said: “We don’t mind where he goes, we just want him to have a new job.” Francis Maude will probably wear that as a badge of pride. It looks pretty certain that Andrew Mitchell will be moving from DfID to become chief whip. The man who ran David Davis’s campaign, moving to the centre of the Tory web just as his old political master, David Davis, says that the government needs to re-think its economic strategy.
As for the economic announcements that are supposed to kick off the political season, we’ll hear a bit more about them on Thursday. What I have learnt is that there’s a bit of division in the Treasury over the small business bank. Senior officials in the Treasury are hyper-allergic to the whole suggestion, but George Osborne is amongst those who’ve started sniffing at an idea that Vince Cable has been pushing for a long time. The official Treasury line is that this is just a way of pulling together a whole load of small business schemes under one website. But it could go further if Treasury opposition can be overcome. The new economy bill, as things stand, has changes to planning law in it but not a whole lot else.
One Whitehall source said there was an air of desperation as the government tried to get its infrastructure and other proposals ready for publication – “under-cooked doesn’t do it justice” was what one senior civil service told me. The government is “determined to communicate delivery,” I was told, but it’s not clear what it is they are delivering.
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