14 Jul 2014

The other reshuffle – Juncker’s revenge?

The reshuffle board Post-its will be out today as the PM gets back from Farnborough. The plan is for bullets tonight and boxes tomorrow – farewells (agreements to call sackings “resignations”, in time-honoured fashion) away from the cameras, and then the Downing Street catwalk of grinning new appointees tomorrow.

Lib Dems will wait until the autumn or possibly even January before a shuffle of their pack. The Lib Dem leader will be trying to promote the party as a “team”  and it is then not now that Jo Swinson and others might get the chance of office.

In Brussels they’re talking about a completely different load of jobs. They’re convinced that David Cameron has timed his cabinet reshuffle to free up a cabinet minister to go to Brussels and be a European commissioner. Actually, the reshuffle timing owes something to prevarication as well.

Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg listens to Prime Minister David Cameron speak at a joint news conference at 10 Downing Street in central London

And the original plan to spring Andrew Lansley from the cabinet may have run aground. The expectations that it should be a cabinet minister matter because anything “less” than that can mean you get offered a lower-ranked job by the Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

The word is that Team Juncker is pondering confecting a new cross-department “cutting red tape” portfolio (courtesy of Open Europe) Some think it’s a bespoke design for a British commissioner and that it might amount to less than greets the eye (and certainly less than the internal market or competition portfolios). Conducting battles across commissioner briefs isn’t easy at the best of times, and probably not particularly straightforward when the commission boss is not on great terms with the UK.

Wednesday’s European Council may yet turn into an occasion when the leaders gather for very little purpose. They could sign off on who is the next high representative on foreign affairs, and we may get to hear who gets Olli Rehn’s job as vice-president in charge of economic and monetary affairs – with speculation that Pierre Moscovici may overcome resistance to win through.

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