Compared to many a previous government reshuffle, this week’s went at a pretty standard rate. It felt, however, slower. Slower because our speeded up news cycle and appetite for instant updates, fed above all by Twitter, means that spreading out a series of announcements over several hours feels slow and bitty.
You don’t have to go very far back in time for a reshuffle that takes a good part of the day still to feel quick to most as it would all be heard about in one wrap-up report in the evening news, a further one in the next day’s paper and then the same again as the more junior posts were sorted. Instead, in a world of rolling news, live blogs and social media the drip drip real time information makes the same process feel far more elongated.
Another impact is that we all (myself and this site included) make judgements that are running commentary; partial views based on partial information. It’s worth therefore sometimes taking a step back at the end, recapping and checking what the complete picture looks like.
Here then is the complete (I think and hope!) list of changes in posts for the Liberal Democrats as a result of the reshuffle. The ‘evacuation’ of the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence caught much early comment in the process; how does it look set against the overall picture now?
Changes in posts held by Liberal Democrats
Attendees at Cabinet: +1 (David Laws)
Foreign & Commonwealth Office: -1 Minister of State
Ministry of Defence: -1 Minister of State
Home Office: -1 junior minister
Home Office: +1 Minister of State
Department of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs: +1 Minister of State
International Development: +1 junior minister
Welsh Office: +1 junior minister [Update: as now blogged about by Peter Black.]
The arguments used to justify these switches are:
- A reshuffle that results in more Liberal Democrats in government is a good thing. (Well, I presume that’s what someone is saying. Must admit until I did the maths I had not noticed anyone in the party noting the numbers had gone up…!)
- Major foreign policy issues end up crossing the Deputy Prime Minister’s desk anyway, and the key issue for the party on Defence is Trident, the review into which is being transferred from the MoD to David Laws’s new roving brief.
- Having a more senior ministerial post in the Home Office is very useful given the number of key issues, particularly on civil liberties, that pass through the department. (The reality of what happens to equal marriage and how Jeremy Browne approaches the Draft Communications Data Bill will quickly tell us a lot about whether this holds up.)
- The DEFRA post is a vital one given the number of problems the department has thrown up for the party and the large number of Liberal Democrat MPs from rural seats.
- Both the DFID and Welsh posts also strengthen the party’s ability to appeal to key constituencies. On DFID it is not only that it is an area traditionally of concern to many Liberal Democrats, it is also that DFID handles issues in countries which many voters have close family ties with.
That’s the theory. How does it look to you?
Updated to remove my erroneous reference to Ken Clarke.