7 Oct 2013

Moore out, McVey in, as Cameron reshuffles government

Out with the old, in with the new? The Liberal Democrat Michael Moore is sacked as Scottish secretary in the autumn reshuffle, while the Conservatives Nicky Morgan and Esther McVey are promoted.

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore became the first casualty of the government reshuffle, and was replaced by fellow Lib Dem Alistair Carmichael, formerly the party’s chief whip, just a year before the crucial referendum on independence north of the border.

The Lib Dem chief whip gap left by Mr Carmichael will be filled by Don Foster, and in the Conservative whips office, Greg Hands has been promoted from assistant to deputy chief whip.

Another senior Lib Dem minister to be sacked was Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne, in one of the most surprising announcements of the reshuffle.

He will be replaced by Norman Baker – and Nick Clegg made no secret of why he got the boot, writing: “I have always been keen that we provide the opportunity for as many in our ranks as possible to contribute their skills to ministerial office.”

Elsewhere the Conservative party has been getting a bit of a makeover, with northern, young or female candidates being promoted. Within the Treasury, Lancashire-born Sajid Javid – a favourite of Chancellor George Osborne – has been moved up a rung to replace Greg Clark as financial secretary to the Treasury, while Mr Clark has been moved to the cabinet office to become cities and constitution minister.

Nicky Morgan, who became MP for Loughborough in the Midlands in 2010, has been promoted from assistant whip to economic secretary to the Treasury. Former television presenter Esther McVey (above, middle) – another from the 2010 cohort – has also been promoted within the department of work and pensions (DWP) from minister for the disabled to employment minister

She will replace Mark Hoban who has been culled after a place on the party’s front bench for 10 years. Former fireman Mike Penning is also moving to the DWP as a minister, leaving behind his Northern Ireland brief.

Where are the women?

Monday’s reshuffle was widely tipped as changing the face of the Conservative party, and improving David Cameron’s chances of fulfilling his pledge to have women make up a third of senior ministerial positions. But he is also losing one young woman in the departure of Chloe Smith, who resigned on Sunday evening. She was elected as an MP in 2009, aged just 27, and was quickly promoted within the Treasury after being elected.

But she stormed into the limelight last year after being grilled in a series of humiliating broadcast interviews about the chancellor’s fuel duty policy. Her performance led to Mr Osborne being branded an “arrogant coward” after sending her into the TV studios to defend his decision to delay the 3p hike in fuel duty.

Other Conservative women in government now include Tina Stowell, who has been made parliamentary under secretary of state for sport and equalities, Jane Ellison, public health minister, and Shailesh Vara, justice minister. Mr Cameron’s parliamentary aide, Sam Gyimah, has been moved to the whips’ office along with Karen Bradley, Amber Rudd and Claire Perry.

Elsewhere Conservatives Nicky Morgan and Esther McVey, who both joined the government in 2010, have been promoted, while Helen Grant has moved sideways from justice minister to parliamentary under secretary of state for sport and equalities. Anna Soubry also moves sideways from the health department to the ministry of defence.

A source close to the Conservative party told Channel 4 News there was a sense Ms Smith had been promoted too quickly into government and had not made a big impact. He added that her promotion at the time had been a source of grievance among some: “People felt it was tokenistic, and it increased resentment among male backbenchers who felt they had been overlooked.”

However the fact that she did not last long perhaps shows that Mr Cameron “does want to appoint on merit and ability”, the Conservative party observer added. “The fact that he’s willing to sacrifice women suggests perhaps that it isn’t about tokenism. He does want to appoint on merit and ability.”

Chloe Smith with David Cameron and Theresa May after her 2009 Norwich by-election win.

Chloe Smith with David Cameron and Theresa May after her 2009 Norwich by-election win.

All change in Labour

Labour leader Ed Miliband has also been announcing a reshuffle on Monday. The biggest changes to the shadow cabinet include the ousting of Liam Byrne, as shadow secretary of state for work and pensions, and Stephen Twigg, as shadow secretary of state for education. However Mr Byrne will remain on the front bench as higher education spokesman. Mr Byrne is replaced by rachel Reeves, former shadow Treasury chief secretary.

In what will be seen as a demotion, Jim Murphy MP has been turfed out of the defence department to international development.

There was also a promotion for historian and MP Tristram Hunt, who has been appointed shadow education secretary. And despite rumours that Andy Burnham may go after months of attacks from Conservatives, it looks like he is set to stay.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham remains in place.

Scottish referendum

Mr Carmichael, who will take over from Mr Moore, was elected to Westminster in 2001 as MP for Orkney and Shetland. He was appointed deputy chief whip of the party in 2010 and became deputy leader of the Scottish Lib Dems last year.

Widely seen as more combatitive than Mr Moore, his appointment was welcomed within the party as a good move for the campaign to keep Scotland within the UK. Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said: “His feisty style, combined with his charm, wit and intelligence, is just what we need for the last 12 months in our efforts to safeguard our partnership with the rest of the United Kingdom.”

Sunday night saw the resignation of Cabinet Office Minister Chloe Smith and Deputy Chief Whip John Randall, following the resignation of Simon Burns as transport minister last Friday.

‘You have been a rock’

Mr Randall, 58, played a role in the plebgate row, which led to his then boss Andrew Mitchell resigning as chief whip last year.

He has been the Conservative MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip since a 1997 by-election and told the prime minister at the end of last year that he wished to step down. He said it had been “a great privilege and honour” to serve for 13 years in the whips’ office in opposition and government.

“I have nothing but the deepest admiration for you as a person, leader and prime minister. I will never forget the kind note that you wrote to me when my mother died last year,” he said.

In the midst of the plebgate row, Mr Randall was sent an email by a constituent who claimed to have witnessed a foul-mouthed rant by Mr Mitchell at police officers at the gates of Downing Street. The message was purported to be from a passer-by and specifically referred to Mr Mitchell’s alleged use of the word “pleb”. However it was later revealed to have been sent by a police officer, helping spark a Scotland Yard investigation into a possible conspiracy against Mr Mitchell.

The prime minister said he “could not have wished for a more loyal, discreet, patient, trustworthy and committed colleague.”

“You have been a rock, not just in the whips’ office since 2000 where you have served with great distinction as assistant and then deputy chief whip, but for the whole parliamentary party.”