Big changes at the top – Luther’s take on the reshuffle
So Theresa May, the new Prime Minister, was supposed to be a ‘small c Conservative’? The reshuffle so far suggests otherwise. Her reshuffle made the night of the long knives look like a teddy bear’s picnic, with the corpses of Cabinet Ministers strewn across Westminster last night and today. As one former Cabinet Minister said to us, at least my corpse is in good company.
Last night’s changes were perhaps the most fascinating. If you had taken a look at a top team of Theresa May, Liam Fox, David Davis, Philip Hammond, Boris Johnson and Amber Rudd two years ago, you would have said it was very clearly Eurosceptic, with Boris and Amber Rudd the exceptions. Forget who campaigned for Remain or Brexit, this is a sceptic core group at the heart of government that really means Brexit. The focus on trade and industrial policy laid out by the new Prime Minister suggests they are preparing for life well outside of the Single Market, or any equivalent such as the EEA. Trade, investment and improved productivity are at the heart of her new political strategy and will need to be if the UK is to prosper.
Crucial to the success of this new political and economic strategy will be how Fox, Davis and Johnson work together. The Prime Minister won’t take kindly to politicking either amongst officials or their Ministers and the new teams have to get up and running seamlessly and quickly. The new Prime Minister is planning a very quick tour of European capitals within the next two weeks and her new teams will have to be well prepared to quickly follow-up on those discussions – not easy when the new Department for Exiting the European Union hasn’t yet got an office building (though we hear DECC’s offices are being sequestrated).
Theresa May clearly thought she needed to move quickly to establish her new team, but she has left some unhappy people on the backbenches at a time when she only has a majority of 12. She will need all the help of Gavin Williamson, David Cameron’s former PPS and now Chief Whip to cajole them into line.
So major changes, but should we have expected anything else? The new Cabinet has some of the biggest challenges the country has faced since the Second World War. It could never have been business as usual and the Prime Minister has proven that. The last two days was the easy bit though. They now have to deliver, with a new team, requiring new skills in an entirely different political environment. A tall order.