Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Why a Shadow Cabinet Reshuffle Would be Wrong

ConservativeHome is running a series of ideas on what David Cameron should do next. Today's is to reshuffle his Shadow Cabinet with the key being to move George Osborne to being Party Chairman and for William Hague to replace him as Shadow Chancellor and David Lidington to be promoted to Shadow Foreign Secretary (not gonna happen). The logic behind this suggestion is that reporting lines at CCHQ are blurred with effectively three Party Chairman - Caroline Spelman (the actual chairman), Michael Ashcroft (in charge of target seats) and George Osborne (General Election coordinator).

There are several flaws in this argument, the main one being that William Hague has made it abundantly clear to anyone who will listen that he would rather go back to writing books than be Shadow Chancellor. He's quite happy where he is and intends to stay there.

Speculating about a Shadow Cabinet reshuffle only a matter of weeks after the last one isn't particularly helpful. It would be seen as a pretty desperate step, although I suppose the fact that we are in a post 'non-election' situation could be used to justify it. David Cameron is known to intensely dislike reshuffles and he seems to be happy with his team, which has performed well after a dodgy start. To tinker with it so soon would be wrong.

28 comments:

Cranmer said...

William Hague has made it abundantly clear to anyone who will listen that he would rather go back to writing books than be Shadow Chancellor. He's quite happy where he is and intends to stay there.

Defence of this posture misses the point. There are so many half-hearted, part-time Members on the Opposition benches, 'quite happy' without the pressures of office or government, that the Conservative Party gives the impression of scarcely wanting to return to power at all. If Mr Hague cared more about his Party and what was good for his country rather than he does his own happiness, and were prepared to use his considerable talents to inflict the maximum blow upon this appalling Labour administration, the Conservative Party might just be perceived with rather more political credibility than it presently has.

mitch said...

Deckchairs and Titanic.

Ordovicius said...

I think this would be a mistake (not that I care). Thanks to recent events the Shadow Cabinet has come to the attention of the public at large, who now know at least who is the Shadow Chancellor and who is the Shadow Foreign Minister. A shuffle would mean a return to obscurity.

machiavelli said...

ConHom wants CD to "reshuffle his Shadow Cabinet with the key being to move George Osborne to being Party Chairman and for William Hague to replace him as Shadow Chancellor and David Lidington to be promoted to Shadow Foreign Secretary"

I'm afraid I don't accept their lame reasoning for this. The real reason is to push MPs that Tim Montgomerie approves of into the top slots.

Don't forget, he was promised his own desk in Whitehall by William Hague in the 'Ministry of God' proposals in 2001, and Lidington's a known Bible-basher*...

*Can I say Bible-basher? It's not swearing

Ethelred the Unhinged said...

Although I often suspect Cranmer's sanity, his point is nevertheless quite correct.

If Wild Billy Hague cared about the Tory party, he would do whatever job his leader asked him to do.

Saying he is only prepared to be Foreign Secretary is unhelpful as it reduces Cameron's scope during a reshuffle.

simon said...

Let's face it, DC's last reshuffle was a bodge. At least he recognises that now! Anybody with any sense wants WH to take over from GO at the Treasury post. Hague should stop sodding around and take the position- if it is offered. I expect Chris Grayling to get a promotion as well.

Daily Referendum said...

That's right. Pull of one of the greatest political comebacks in modern times and then change everything. That reminds me of when I was in the Navy. We would leave a really good pub and spend all night trying to find another one. Totally pointless and bloody annoying.

After several years of this pointless pub hopping, I realised that you should not leave a good pub unless you knew a better one was just down the road. Wondering around aimlessly for somewhere better is a waste of good drinking time.

strapworld said...

I agree with Cramer. Unable to match his lyrical language, I will be blunt.

We need real fighters on the front bench. A return to what one leopard shoed
woman called the 'nasty party'. A real awkward squad of front benchers who will make each and every Sec of State and Minister fear the despatch box.

Let Anne Widdecombe loose as her swan song.Politicians with gumption,backbone and charisma. The Tories have many and should utilise them.

Also they should organise themselves so that not only the front bench take on the Government front bench but backbenchers bowl some underarm ankle cripplers!

Set the dogs of war on this corrupt, inept, fourth rate administration.

Paul Linford said...

Agree the time's not right, but CH makes a good point about lines of accountability, although it's not a problem unique to the Tories. What is the difference between a Party Chairman and a General Election Co-ordinator, exactly?

Curly said...

Cranmer is correct and all leaders of any organisation need the room and flexibility to manouvre. The most dynamic and hungry deserve a seat at the table.

I see the tree has also gone autumnal, help yourselves to a copy if you feel like hugging a Lib Dem.

Cranmer said...

Although I often suspect Cranmer's sanity, his point is nevertheless quite correct.

Ergo, Cranmer is perfectly sane.

The truth is that MPs are not voted into Parliament to write books. If this is now Mr Hague's preferred vocation, he should yield his seat to the eminently capable Mr Dale, or to a completely unknown one-legged Asian Muslim lesbian - whichever now best suits the Party's image.

freedom to prosper said...

Where is Bunter Soammes? A great speaker on the armed forces and so on.
Is the verification an eye-sight test?

Chuck Unsworth said...

Isn't the lesson of the countless reshuffles of the Government during their time in office that this sort of exercise is entirely counterproductive? No sooner has a Minister learned where the toilet and the photocopier are than he or she is moved on.

Net result? No continuity of policy, no answerability, and no development of any expertise. The reality is that these people are a bunch of shysters, constantly taking refuge, ducking and diving. Who benefits from all of this? Not the electorate, that's for sure.

Far better to appoint people who have sufficient ability to learn their briefs and develop real knowledge of their fields. That way they become formidable.

Anonymous said...

Frankly, if Cameron wants to know what not to do, he only needs to look at Conservative Home.

I know a number of people who despair of the influence that idiotic site seems to have within the media and the fringes of the party.

Anonymous said...

Chuck - major cabinet reshuffles haven't been constant, which is why Brown obtained a reputation as formidable. One chancellor of the Exc., and only two or three foreign sec's.

"Far better to appoint people who have sufficient ability to learn their briefs and develop real knowledge of their fields" Talking about China? Fair point!

Savonarola said...

There is no logisc at all to your point that Hague should be left where he is. TM is spot on in his analysis. Hague would be an outstanding Shadow Chancellor the toughest job in opposition apart from leader. Osborne would be an outstanding Chairman who could take all sections of the party forward. I think that it is time for all good men to ask 'what can I do for the party'. Many just take the perks.

Chuck Unsworth said...

@ Anon 2:28

Guess you may have had the misfortune to be State educated. Just remind yourself how many Cabinet posts and Ministererial positions there are. Is it possible that a remarkably high percentage have been subject to constant moves, do you think? Or do you believe that because we have had one (appalling) Chancellor and 'only' two or three Foreign Secretaries in a decade the entire Cabinet has been relatively static for ten or more years?

Just how long does it take for a Minister to fully understand his/her brief? Or are these people superhuman and superintelligent? Not from where I'm sitting they ain't.

Brown's move to the position of Prime Minister is a graphic example of how long it might take. In fact in his case I doubt he'll ever measure up to the job. Brown was never formidable, certainly he was bullying and, in the words of a well known former Minister, was a 'bright boy'. But he's relied on a sham reputation and has now been exposed for what he really is, a gutless, incompetent, loudmouthed braggart.

And for further insight drop in on Edward Leigh's or Gwyneth Dunwoody's committees and see how these guys perform when subject to anything like decent scrutiny.

John Reid had an interesting time. Virtually a new Ministry every year. Even if he took only three months to get to grips with his departments, within the year he was out of the door. So at the very best he was 75% useful. Is this really the best use of individuals?

Kristofer D Wilson said...

Whilst the timing of a reshuffle is not the best moment to do it, he could get away with it while we are in a good position. Hague really ought to go where he is needed, which is the Shadow Chancellorship. Move Osborne to Party Chairman. We also should have Soames back at Defence - he had gravitas and knows what he is talking about. What about Fox back at Foreign Affairs?

Anonymous said...

I think Osborne and Hague should stay where they are, both have established themselves well in their jobs. I'd like to see Ken Clarke on the frontbench after a good spell on the democracy taskforce.

Henry Rogers said...

Anonymous - October 24, 2007 1:52 PM

"........Conservative Home...the influence that idiotic site seems to have within the media and the fringes of the party..."

Wouldn't go so far as that but some of the people who post there have some odd ideas if they really are Tories which I often doubt.

I think CH's Editor and team sometimes have an 'original' point of view, but for Heaven's sake, it's their site. It's full of material and it's always interesting.

It does seem to influence the media though and I begin to wonder how much the hype about the 'Brown Bounce' was actually based on the hard work there of Labour Trolls and about half a dozen Tories who prefer doctrinal purity to winning power and doing something useful about a pretty dire situation. Anyone looking for a story about grassroot rebellions probably goes there first. But the hype induced polls went the other way pretty quickly.

Party loyalties apart, this is all really fascinating. It does look as if the press and mainstream TV are following where the blogs lead.

Margaret on the Guillotine said...

The logic isn't that the lines of command are confused. The logic is that it would be a nice little step to screwing over Cameron and getting a Duncan Smith-type figure back in charge, with a Mr. T. M---------e with his feet under the table at CCHQ as Shadow Minister for Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, or some such.

As for one commenter's suggestion of Hague as Shadow Chancellor, Osborne as Party Chairman, Soames at Defence and the treacherous Fox at Foreign Affairs: spot the provincial CF chairman with a little too much undigested of Thatcher's memoirs.

verity said...

Agree with Cranmer and Ethelred The Unhinged. This isn't a buffet. Hague has to be placed where he can do the most good and if he doesn't want to be a team player, then he should return to the private sector or at least resign from the Shadow Cabinet. And I speak as someone who admires him. But no prima donnas in the Shadow Cabinet. It's everyone's shoulder to the wheel in whatever position the captain places you.

I also endorse every word Strapworld wrote.

Oscar Miller said...

I think there should be a reshuffle but not the one Tim Montgomerie proposes. George Osborne should stay where he is. He's proved what a smart and creative mind he is as shadow Treasurer. It's Hague who, in my view, should be party Chairman. He's more popular than Osborne (and better known) and would be a very good front man for the party maximising media appearances. Caroline Spelperson isn't strong enough. As for foreign secretary - Cameron could go for a bold promotion - Michael Gove perhaps.

klaxon said...

The point is, we have a part-time shaddow cabinet! It sickens me that so many have outisde interests so numerous, it simply must interfere with either their constituency case load, or their ShadCab word - or both.

It only takes a quick squint at the RMI to see how many they have. One has six directoriships at banks and another at Accenture!

judith said...

As we're all playing the Hypothetical Shuffle Game, I'd suggest that Hague is wildly over-rated and always has been.

I think he has lost his appetite for the Big Time, and should get on with his writing and speechifying from the back benches.

We should have a non-MP Chief Exec at CCHQ, and at some stage Redwood should become Shadow Chancellor - now there's a man with brains, wit and passion!

la breeze said...

"...We would leave a really good pub and spend all night trying to find another one. Totally pointless and bloody annoying."

I agree with D.R. on this point - if it aint broke don't fix it.

As Shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague isn't in as demanding a job as Shadow Chancellor/Home Secretary.

If the Tories win the next election, Hague will probably be tempted by the promise of high office, and be more amenable. But for the time being the position of Shadow Foreign Secretary is not as demanding as Home/Chancellor. Indulge him for the time being - better to have him inside the tent...

George Osbourne is a great Shadow Chancellor. I admit his voice is a bit high and 'squeaky'. He needs to lower it, and be a bit less shrill. But apart from that, he's doing excellently.

The thing is the Tories have four 'big beasts' on the fornt bench who dominate the party, and the public's perception of it (Cameron/Osbourne/Hague/Davis). Each one is talented, media savvy, comeptant and recognisable.

Who have Labour got apart from Brown?

If it aint broke, don't fix it. Osbourne/Hague/Davis are doing fine as they are.

verity said...

Judith - Re Redwood, I absolutely agree! Women will vote for him. It's the lefties who branded him toxic and the bullied Tories shrank and agreed. But women would vote for him.

I think I agree with you over Hague, as well.

Anonymous said...

Billy Hague isn't the man he was and should either be on the park full time or hand over to someone less EPP friendly.
The Treasury is the place for Billy and with regret I have to agree with TM.