The Corner

Rearranging Deck Chairs On The Titanic, And Speeding Up Towards The Iceberg Too

John O’Sullivan had a characteristically smart take on the first stage of David Cameron’s cabinet reshuffle earlier. Since then, we’ve heard that (as John suggested could be the case) Philip Hammond has indeed become Foreign Secretary. John seems fairly positive about Mr. Hammond (as is another shrewd and well-informed euroskeptic with whom I have been discussing this), but, to the extent that the new Foreign Secretary is still talking about ‘renegotiation’ of Britain’s position, count me skeptical. I hope I am being too pessimistic, but this Financial Times piece by Gideon Rachman reads a little ominously:

The new foreign secretary also has a reputation as a cautious, mainstream Conservative – so he is unlikely to take British European policy in new and radical directions. The government is already committed to renegotiating Britain’s terms of EU membership, which leaves every opportunity for Mr Hammond to say, at some future date, that his concerns have been met – and then to campaign for continued British membership of the EU. The experience of being Foreign Secretary also tends to mellow eurosceptic views, as ministers discover that some of their European colleagues are actually quite reasonable – and that the EU, as a collective of 28 nations, has quite a lot of clout. It is certainly true that William Hague’s euroscepticism seemed to mellow, during his period in King Charles Street; a development that lost him support amongst the headbangers on the Tory back-benches.

“Headbangers”!  The EU’s Izvestia rarely disappoints.

Meanwhile the firing of the (sensible) Environment Secretary (who is also a prominent euroskeptic) is a clear message that Cameron believes either (a)  that he can win the next election without the support of large numbers of former Tory voters now resident in the UKIP  hotel or b) that enough of these voters will either be so fooled by Cameron’s own ersatz euroskepticism or so terrified by the (genuinely appalling) prospect of a Labour victory next year that they will return to the fold and save the day at the last moment. Neither (a) nor (b) is likely.

Transferring Michael Gove, the innovative and reformist Education Secretary, to another (senior, but…) job will be seen as a surrender to the education establishment for the very good reason that it is.

John also rightly takes Cameron to task for the tokenism running through the reshuffle process, a tokenism that is as condescending as it will (electorally speaking) be unproductive.

And speaking of, if not tokenism, well, something, here’s this report (my emphasis added) from the Daily Telegraph:

Parliament’s art should be subject to a “gender-audit” amid concerns that the paintings and sculptures are too “white and male”, a report endorsed by all three party leaders has found….Mary McLeod, the Tory chairman of the MP, said that improving the artwork and culture of parliament would help to attract more women. She said: “We are not trying to take away the history of Parliament, but we do want to make it look more aspirational and modern. These sort of pictures build the unconscious bias towards men, saying this is a male Parliament, built by men and for men….

Maria Miller, the former Culture Secretary, warned that David Cameron may fail in his attempts to bring more women into the Conservative Party and be forced to introduce all-women shortlists.  Miss Miller warned that Parliament is at risk of “lagging behind” the business community as only a fifth of MPs are women….Miss Miller, who resigned after a scandal over her expenses, said….

Read the whole thing, if you can face it.


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