Mini-Reshuffle Runners and Riders

As reported yesterday, Downing Street have signed off the plans for a mini-shuffle should the CPS press the big-red Huhne button. All talk of the one time leader in waiting being able to cling on, despite a charge, has withered away, even amongst his most loyal Praetorians online. As Guido told you back in May, the two LibDem front-runners for the Energy and Climate Change brief are Ed Davey and Jeremey Browne:

“Both are Orange Bookers, though Browne is seen as more right-wing which will likely dent his chances for the soppy climate change brief. Obviously Laws is toxic and Guido understands that Sarah Teather has little chance of a promotion.”

Huhne has managed to convince everyone he’s a bit left-wing, which makes Davey seem a likelier option. Though given he held the LibDems Foreign affairs brief before the election, it would make sense to pop him in the Foreign Office and promote the telegenic Browne to the Cabinet.

After she lost control of her backbenchers, leaving the Prime Minister floundering at the height of the phone hacking crisis, the speculation that Warsi is for the chop is growing. Grant Shapps is much tipped to replace her as Tory chairman. Newsnight’s permanent fixture Michael Fallon wouldn’t be too happy though. The current Deputy Chairman has been pressing the flesh recently…

Guido reckons two birds could be killed with one stone here. Shapps, the uber-loyal Cameroon Housing Minister could go and beef up the CCHQ operation, Warsi could stay out of trouble sticking little windmills on a map in Huhne’s old job, and a LibDem could replace Shapps. However it is unlikely that the yellows would be willing to swap a Cabinet job for a mere Minister. Though given the fact that Huhne walking would be their third Cabinet cock-up in a row, perhaps Dave should put his foot down.

Tory MPs Run to the Hills

One thing that has been extremely noticeable today is the complete lack of Tory MPs coming out to bat for Cameron. Boris kicked him below the belt earlier and the rolling news channels, that have discussed nothing else today, have been void of any friendly blue faces. Even Nick Clegg had to be put out to say that the Prime Minister had no need to resign. Talk about scraping the barrel.

James Forsyth has also picked up on the silence and notes that the phones are extremely quiet too. The PM’s TV man Craig Oliver is in Africa with Cameron, but that is not an excuse for allowing the narrative that the PM walking is actually a possibility to gain traction. The Guardian are even suggesting that the PM should be knifed by the LibDems in order to save their electoral fortunes. Guido isn’t so sure that making, and then breaking Cameron, would do the yellows any favours. It is very telling that people are not willing to put their heads above the parapet though, this could be worse than it looks for the Prime Minister. Where’s George? Hague? Hammond?

Gillan’s Turn For an Awkward Question

Last week Guido revealed that Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan might have had a hand in the awkward question to the Prime Minister, asking whether she would be sacked over her opposition to high-speed rail. Given the planned route practically goes through her garden, she is resisting the plans, in the face of collective responsibility. Well it looks like it’s her turn to twist a little at the despatch box.

Guido hears that a question lined up for Welsh Questions at 11.30 is along the lines of “what exactly will high-speed rail bring to Wales?” Given the next thing on the order paper is PMQs, Gillan will be sat next to Dave immediately after her grilling . Guido is sure they will have lots to say to each other…

Frontrunners to Replace Huhne

LibDems and civil servants are openly discussing when, not if, Huhne will be going. There is some logic to getting the mess out of the way before the weekend, and the country will be able to cope without a Climate Change Secretary for a couple of days. The two yellows in the lead to replace him in the Cabinet role seem to be Ed Davey, who has been invisible as a Business Minister, and Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne, who has been all over the TV whenever Hague is busy being briefed by MI6.

Both are Orange Bookers, though Browne is seen as more right-wing which will likely dent his chances for the soppy climate change brief. Obviously Laws is toxic and Guido understands that Sarah Teather has little chance of a promotion. 

Above the Laws

Ever since he walked in May, a David Laws imminent return story has been the mark of a slow news day, however this one is different – there is actually some detail.

The Mail and the Indy have been tipped off to Nick Clegg’s private talks with David Laws about the possibility of a return to a new “Mr Fix-It” position in the Cabinet Office, which would avoid the need for a reshuffle.

A fixer is much needed, but it’s almost as if the coalition big-wigs have decided he is innocent before the Standards and Privileges Committee has made a determination. What about due process? A cynic might think there is an establishment stitch-up going on to clear someone who paid his boyfriend £40,000 of taxpayers’ money, other MPs have gone to jail for less.  Laws has been under investigation for nearly ten months. If it was all so innocuous, why has the inquiry taken so long?

UPDATE: Latest betting on the return of Laws here.

Tory MP Calls For Parties To Pick Up Regional Cabinet Bill

When Gordon Brown took his Cabinet away to Leeds for the day in 2009 the Tories were quick to pounce on his wasteful spending. Robert Goodwill, the then Shadow Minister for Leeds went on the attack:

“The cost of hosting them given the increased security is something that should be borne by Labour rather than by the taxpayer. I can understand them wanting to show their presence in Yorkshire for political reasons.”

And there was plenty of wider condemnation of the idea. The Taxpayers’ Alliance’s Mark Wallace, for it was he, said “These meetings are expensive and of dubious worth to areas that the Cabinet chooses to visit.” Yesterday David Cameron took his Cabinet away to Derby for the day.

Asking around, you can see why they look like a good idea. The Civil service like them because it gets those pesky ministers out out of the way so they can run the country for a couple of hours and the party machines love the fact they get some coverage and face-time in marginal seats, with all the transport and logistical costs paid for. The regional lobby even get spoonfed. As one former Labour SpAd put it to Guido:

“The whole comms side of government and regional offices get to rev their engines. Everyone wins except the taxpayer. I actually hoped the Tories would stop that bollocks, but no.”

Robert Goodwill MP is very quiet today.

Reshuffle Rumour Round-Up

Ken Clarke faced a second weekend being briefed against in the Sundays. Guido can only presume the talk of reshuffle and booting Ken out is coming from an increasingly infuriated Coulson who doesn’t like to see Ministers being hounded by The Sun for being soft on crime. Very new politics.

Philip Hammond isn’t having a good time either. While admittedly snow is out of his control, after all the fuss the Tories made in opposition when divine intervention ruined a government media grid, you would have at thought at least some sort of contingency plan would have been thought up. The betting markets moved when the PMOS had to defend him this morning.

While it would be very hard for Dave to fire Ken Clarke, there’s bound to be a shot across his bow. Rumour is that his junior ministers, Crispin Blunt and Jonathan Djanogly and Lord McNally face the chop, with David Laws being lined up to come and shake up the department. A hang ’em and flog ’em Tory backbencher is also expected to be deployed to dilute “soft” Ken. Still no word on when Laws will receive his expected slap on the wrist from the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, but bad news for those who put their money on a return before Christmas

Agreeing With Tom Watson

Well it’s taking some getting used to for Guido, but Tom Watson is certainly taking to his new role as chief-thorn-in-the-coalition-side. One of the benefits of going from government to opposition is you know where the bodies are buried. He knows his way around the Cabinet Office too. Though he seems to have been stonewalled on getting the government hospitality wine cellar list published, he is aiming slightly higher now…

First there was his report on government cars and who has actually given them up and who hasn’t, now this morning he has released his research into private offices and found Hague costs the taxpayer three times more than Vince Cable. Caveats like security and breadth of brief aside, it makes for an interesting read. No surprise that Caroline Spelman feels she needs twelve personal staff to assist her at DEFRA.

Catty Cabinet Clash

While Liam Fox vs. No. 10 may be the more high-profile simmering cabinet tension, it is no secret that Michael Gove and Andrew Lansley despise each other. This is no new feud, there was talk of a muttered “see […]

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Gordon’s Cabinet Jaunts Live On

Gordon’s strategy of taking the Cabinet on away-days to marginal seats looks set to continue under Dave. Tomorrow he will convene his first Cabinet at an as of yet unannounced location. When these expeditions were set up the Tories called […]

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Quote of the Day

Mary Creagh’s coded attack on Ed Miliband…

‘I want the country to be united behind a single vision, we aren’t going to do it by sort of having a Rubik’s Cube approach to politics’. 

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