Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Why Stability-Loving Cameron May Be Forced into Reshuffle; Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Why Stability-Loving Cameron May Be Forced into Reshuffle; Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Linford

AS anyone who has ever worked at Westminster for any length of time will know, there are certain fixed points in the parliamentary calendar which do much to shape the narrative of the political year. Some of these are pretty well immovable feasts: the Budget, for instance, is almost always in March, the local elections in May, the party conferences in the autumn and the Queen's Speech in November.

But 2011 will go down as different from most other years in one significant respect: there was no summer Cabinet reshuffle.

Perhaps it was just the fact that everybody was too busy talking about phone-hacking, but the usual crescendo of summer speculation about who's heading up and down the greasy pole never even got going.

Tony Blair was addicted to reshuffles, although over the course of ten years as Prime Minister he never managed to become very good at them One of my most abiding memories of my time in the Lobby was the chaotic Number Ten briefing after the 2003 reshuffle which followed the then Darlington MP Alan Milburn's surprise resignation as health secretary. Initially, we were told that the Scottish Office and the Welsh Office had been abolished and become part of the newly-created Department for Constitutional Affairs under Lord Falconer . Half an hour later, after hasty consultations with shocked officials from the departments in question, we were told, er, no, that was not quite right after all.

Mr Blair didn't like round pegs in round holes. He was one of those leaders - you get them in all walks of life - who feel the need to move people around every couple of years or so lest they get too comfortable in the jobs they are in.

By contrast, David Cameron is said to hate reshuffles, and that certainly seems to be borne out by the relatively stable composition of his frontbench team in both opposition and government.

Unlike Mr Blair, he seems to make a virtue of stability and allowing ministers to get to know their briefs.

Usually this is a good thing - but sometimes, as in the case of health secretary Andrew Lansley and his NHS reforms, they can become so obsessed with their particular field of expertise they become blind to the wider political picture. …

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