So, you’ve been demoted from your Cabinet-attending role as Tory party chairman to a lowly junior ministerial role at DfiD. Do not fear! Here is your how-to guide to getting back round the Cabinet table in just three easy steps:
The government’s decision on airport expansion is a step closer post-election. The LibDems – most importantly Vince Cable – are out and Boris has been given a role where he would not have to resign if the Tory government backs Heathrow. A decision could be made in the next few months…
One person who would surely have to honourably fall on her sword if the government chooses Heathrow is Justine Greening. As MP for Putney, opposing a third runway was her main local campaign for re-election. As she says on her website, “Justine has led our community’s campaign against extra aircraft noise from an expanded Heathrow… Justine will continue to stand up for the thousands of residents who are concerned about aircraft noise”. Could she realistically vote for a Heathrow third runway?
Who is the junior minister at DfiD who could step up to fill the vacant Secretary of State position in an emergency? Ah yes, the minister of state, one Grant Shapps.
Barring any brewing personal scandal that might slight his good character, there is a route back to the Cabinet table…
Unprecedented footage as Dave lets the cameras into Number 10 to film Cabinet for the first time…
And here they all are…
Or are they celebrating?
The famous cabinet disrupting musical watch has finally been shown to the world…
It has been widely reported today that Danny Alexander and Vince Cable are barely on speaking terms, with the Mail this moring added that the tension boiled over last Tuesday at Cabinet. Guido hears that Vince was giving a presentation on SMEs when Grant Shapps and Oliver Letwin turned on the Business Secretary, suggesting that while the government is ‘bureaucracy busting’ Cable is ‘doing the opposite at BIS’ and ‘creating new red tape’. Much to the surprise of everyone, not least Vince, Alexander then weighed in on the attack, agreeing that Cable should be doing more to tackle red tape. Guido’s eyes and ears in the room say Uncle Fester got incredibly defensive and looked even more miffed than usual by the end. No wonder he’s grumpy this week.
“For as many years as Britain has had a centralised civil service we have been rather good at collecting information. From the first censuses in 1801 to the creation of the Central Statistical Office by Winston Churchill, the amount of information gathered and held by Government has exponentially increased as our society has become more complex. Today we hold raw information on everything from pupil performance by class, crime levels on every street in the country and the success rate for every single operation in your local hospital. We can even tell at the touch of a button how late your train into work is likely to be.”
Big Brother is watching you…
Millionaire Cabinet Secretary Caroline Spelman spent a year’s salary on a botched injunction the last time her son went off the rails, but ‘roid-popping Jonny’s latest embarrassment has been laid bare for all to see. The disgraced England rugby prodigy posted a video online claiming the Environment Secretary is kicking him out of the family home, then begs for money to support his new chosen career: body-building. According to the Daily Star Sunday Jonny has dropped out of his £31,000-a-year boarding school, moaning:
“My aim is to be the biggest guy there ever was…basically you know I wanna be the next Mr Olympia. Obviously this does come at a price, I’m afraid, as I’ve chosen bodybuilding as my life and my parents have sort of decided that they’re not happy with that. They’ve told me eventually I’m gonna have to move out and they’ve stopped supporting me financially.”
With Dave leaving his daughter in the pub and Spelman leaving her son out in the cold, family breakdown is spreading throughout the Cabinet. Did someone say Broken Britain…
The choices were apparently based on their character:
- David Cameron – Great Expectations & Hard Times
- Nick Clegg – Oliver Twist
- William Hague – The Uncommercial Traveller
- Andrew Mitchell – Dombey and Son
- George Osborne – A Tale of Two Cities
- Danny Alexander – Hard Times
- Kenneth Clarke – Little Dorrit
- Theresa May – Little Dorrit
- Justine Greening – Dombey and Son
- Philip Hammond – Dombey and Son
- Vince Cable – A Christmas Carol
- David Willetts – The Haunted Man and Ghost’s Bargain
- Iain Duncan Smith – Oliver Twist
- Ed Davey – Little Dorrit
- Andrew Lansley – Nicholas Nickleby
- Michael Gove – A Child’s History of England
- Eric Pickles – A House to Let
- Caroline Spelman – Bleak House
- Owen Paterson – Pickwick Papers
- Michael Moore – Pickwick Papers
- Cheryl Gillan – Pickwick Papers
- Baroness Warsi – The Old Curiosity Shop
- Francis Maude – The Old Curiosity Shop
- Oliver Letwin – The Old Curiosity Shop
- Lord Strathclyde – Bleak House
- Sir George Young – Bleak House
Lansley left early and paused for the cameras. He was backed by the Prime Ministers spokesman too. It hardly seems like Hard Times are ahead, despite this morning’s excitement.
What are your suggestions for what Huhne would have been given? Guido would have recommended Dickens’ 1862 short story “Somebody’s Luggage”…
The smart money is on Cameron not reshuffling until after the Olympics and opting for a quick yellow for yellow swap if Huhne is forced out, but that hasn’t stopped some intriguing ideas being floated around Tory circles. Firstly there was the hilarious “bigging up” of Sarah Teather, whose civil servants give a very different picture from the one painted in Black Dog:
“Small but perfectly formed Lib Dem Schools Minister Sarah Teather is being tipped by friends of Michael Gove to succeed Chris Huhne as Energy Secretary if he is forced to quit over his speeding offence wrangle. ‘Like most of us, Michael didn’t rate Sarah but he has changed his view after seeing how she sends mandarins twice her size packing,’ said a friend of Gove.”
Whoever Gove’s friend is, he’s a master of reverse psychology. Guido is sure that many tears will be shed if Sarah does move on from Education.
Today’s pipe dream is shifting Vince Cable from BIS over to DECC. There was vicious briefing against the Sage of Twickenham in the Sun today, with unknown Tory Ministers accusing him of stunting growth:
“Cable is obsessed with punishing the bankers — and little else.He has failed to deliver any meaningful strategy to help struggling British companies. Time is running out for us to get this right. We’re doing not nearly enough — and we won’t until Vince gets out of the way.”
Do they really want to put him in charge of growth-choking green-taxes?
With the announcement coming in the morning, in all likelihood it will be Ed Davey or Jeremy Browne laying awake in wonder tonight. There is talk of Norman Lamb and Jo Swinson moving up a rung as a result. Guido doubts we will see the return of David Laws to the Cabinet, but he could well take the vacant Junior Minister slot.
Vince Cable has taken to the pages of the FT to brief against Thresesa May and Iain Duncan Smith:
An ally of Mr Cable said: “Vince really wants to come forward with a good package for business this autumn but we want to see other departments putting their weight behind these efforts. They need to bring something to the table.”
His line is that they do not realise how serious the growth situation is, however Vince might want to make sure his own department is in order before he whispers into hacks ears. Guido understands that some officials at Business Innovation and Skills are none too happy with the drop in stature their department has had since the old man took over from Mandy. Although he had his faults, they feel Prince of Darkness made the department’s presence felt in every nook and cranny of Whitehall. They are moaning at a lack of “kudos” these days and gently remind the Minister in charge of growth that it’s going to require more than just sniping against others for not cutting enough red tape…
- The fifty year old Oxford and LSE graduate has worked for Chancellors Lamont, Clarke and Brown.
- Became Blair’s Principal Private Secretary in 1999.
- Spent 2003 to 2007 at Morgan Stanley
- Returned to the Cabinet Office in 2007 in a strategy role for Gordon.
- Since January 2008 Heywood has been Permanent Secretary at Number 10.
Downing Street sources confirm he gets the promotion.
UPDATE: The FT report “A new “head of the civil service” will take over the admin responsibilities for the whole of Whitehall. Sir David Normington is to launch an internal competition to recruit this person. The Cabinet Office will have a new, dedicated permanent secretary. It is Ian Watmore, currently head of the Cabinet Office’s ‘efficiency and reform’ group.” GOD’s resignation letter is here.
It was well known that Cabinet Sectary Gus O’Donnell was on his way out, and rumours were afoot that there was some consternation about appropriate candidates to fill his boots. Well it seems the plan is to split up his job instead:
Jeremy Heywood is in the line for the newly defined Cabinet Secretary role, but was expected to get the whole thing. Christopher Hope reports that a Head of Civil Service is still to be decided.
GOD isn’t going until the end of the year, which makes you wonder about the timing of such an announcement…
UPDATE: It certainly wasn’t GOD himself that leaked this news. According to the Guardian’s Jonathan Haynes, he is currently in a meeting with the MoD Permanent Secretary Ursula Brennan trying to sort the Fox investigation out.
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.
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?
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…
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.
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.
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:
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“The cost of hosting them given the increased security is something that should be borne by Labour rather than by the taxpayer.