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Four objectives for David Cameron's reshuffle

By Tim Montgomerie
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Over the next few days ConservativeHome will be looking at the looming reshuffle, the first and perhaps only big reshuffle that Mr Cameron will make in this parliament. Although my guess is that the really big one is actually a year or so away.

  • Tomorrow I will run through the big names likely to move or who have been subject to speculation;
  • On Friday Matthew Barrett will identify key figures from the 2010 intake who are due for ministerial office while Bruce Anderson examines the big reshuffles of the Macmillan and Thatcher periods;
  • On Saturday Pete Hoskin asks if it would be better if we had some all-Conservative and all-Liberal Democrat departments. He also examines whether a reshuffle can be made to work if unaccompanied by significant changes to the civil service.


Today I want to set four broad objectives for the reshuffle: re-election; radicalisation; rebalancing; rehabilitation.

Re-election: The most important change is that we need a new party chairman. This is not because I'm anti-Baroness Warsi. Sayeeda is a good representative of the party in the media and works hard for the Tory cause. This summer, for example, she's contacting every Tory Association Chairman about Party Conference and the police commissioner elections. I hope in any reshuffle she would stay in the Cabinet. The reason we need a new Party Chairman is to begin rethinking the party's electoral strategy. The three planks of Cameron's re-election strategy are all in sorry repair:
  • Last week the central plank of our re-election plank was removed by Nick Clegg when he vowed to vote down the boundary review. The winning line is now 20 MPs further away.
  • Another Tory re-election plank was that there would be strong signs of economic recovery by 2014/15. Unless the Eurozone crisis is resolved all bets are off on that score. The cuts will certainly be as big in 2014/15 as now and might be harder to deliver, simply because higher hanging fruit will need to be reached.
  • The third re-election plank was that, in government, we would complete the 'detoxification' of the Tory brand. The argument was that there was only a certain amount of reassurance possible from the opposition benches. Only in government could Tories prove that we could be trusted with the NHS, to protect public sector workers, guard minority rights and champion Scotland. For a variety of reasons (such as the NHS Bill and the length of the cuts period) we haven't completed detoxification and the Lib Dems are attempting to retoxify our party.

We need a new party chairman who will rethink our electoral strategy from first principles. That chairman must satisfy three criteria: (1) They must have the intellectual skills to mount a comprehensive overhaul of the Tory message, manifesto and machine; (2) They must be trusted by the PM and Chancellor; and (3) They must enjoy the complete confidence of the voluntary and parliamentary wings of our party. For my money only Michael Gove fulfils all three criteria. I would replace Mr Gove at education with Greg Clark.

Radicalisation of economic policy: Reshuffles should be about personnel management - rewarding success, punishing failure and promoting new talent - but they should also be about policy. In fact they should primarily be about policy. Ken Clarke is a case in point. He may have been a good, cost-cutting manager of the Justice department but he is a block on the kind of penal policy that most of the public wants. Appointing, say, Chris Grayling to that job will reconnect the party leadership with the country on a range of issues including prisons and human rights policy. The most important policy objective of the reshuffle should, however, be to turbocharge growth policy. Are the most enterprise-friendly people in the most important, relevant positions? If I were David Cameron I'd be sitting down with Nick Clegg and offering Cable the health slot if it would mean David Laws became business secretary.

Rebalancing: David Cameron needs a team that looks more like the party and the country. In terms of the party there need to be more voices of the Mainstream Right at the top table. He could achieve this by promoting Owen Paterson and adding people like Chris Grayling and Graham Brady to the Cabinet. Cheryl Gillan is almost certain for the chop and rather than worrying only about the gender balance of the frontbench, he should worry about whether it represents people from working class backgrounds. Replace Ms Gillan with Stephen Crabb. Representing a Welsh seat, bright, articulate, politically savvy and from a humble background Stephen is exactly the kind of person who would be a great representative for our party in Wales.

Rehabilitation: Cameron has given every impression that if you ever fall out with him you're politically dead. This communicates a certain arrogance and it isn't good for party management. He should promote someone like the hugely talented Mark Field to a Treasury post and also one of the most talented EU referendum rebels (eg Chris Heaton-Harris and Andrea Leadsom) to show that there is some forgiveness in his heart.


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