Ten observations on today's shadow cabinet reshuffle:
- The economic team has been considerably strengthened: ...but there must be a danger that Clarke will eclipse George Osborne (certainly in terms of media bids). As Mike Smithson blogs: "The Tories can now say that the Chancellor who left Britain in such good shape can help put things back together again."
The party has a punchier communications team: Grayling replacing Grieve, Pickles replacing Spelman, Francois displacing Lidington all adds up to an earthier feel. Will Woodward is calling it Andy Coulson's reshuffle; "a definite shift to the tougher talking, plain-speaking elements in the Tory parliamentary party". Benedict Brogan is calling it "pub ready". Francois is a key ally of George Osborne and will strengthen the Shadow Chancellor's hand but can he now deliver EPP exit? It was clearly prescient of Jonathan to make him his "One to Watch" in
2009 as he is the only middle-ranking spokesman to have been promoted
to the top table. Promoting the eurosceptic Europe spokesman to the
shadow cabinet will also act as a foil to those concerned about the
European views held by Ken Clarke.
- We must worry about a shift away from reform: (1) Despite the reassurances, Ken Clarke will be a roadblock against any further Euroscepticism from David Cameron. (2) Serious reform of the ECHR is also unlikely now that Grieve has ousted Herbert at Justice. (3) Theresa May is not known as a welfare reformer but time will tell. James Forsyth has the same concern. We'll write more tomorrow about what this reshuffle means for the Tory Right.
- The musical chairs were well executed: If reshuffle speculation had been allowed to run out of control since Christmas the actual reshuffle was executed quickly and effectively. Last night's briefing of the Clarke move worked particularly smoothly. The reshuffle of junior ranks should be complete later today.
- The appointment of Eric Pickles: His promotion to the party chairmanship was what ConHome readers asked for last week and his record as a campaigner bodes well for the run-up to the general election. Also good to have another straight-talking Northerner in one of the senior posts.
- Surprise of the reshuffle: Jeremy Hunt didn't get CCHQ.
- Better Off Outers? Dan Hannan makes a good point; if Clarke can serve on frontbench whilst supporting Lisbon it's time to allow Better Off Out supporters to serve on the frontbench too.
- Advice for Peter Ainsworth: Take your deep belief in green issues and form a think-tank of the kind IDS has used to argue for a socially just Conservative Party. The party has no green think tank and you could make it happen.
- The accuracy of Michael Howard's political antennae: The first three members of the 2001 intake he promoted to his shadow cabinet were Cameron, Osborne and Grayling, who now hold the biggest three jobs in the Shadow Cabinet.
- A boost for the pro-hunting lobby: Nick Herbert played a key role in the founding of the Countryside Movement - now the Countryside Alliance - so he seems a good pick for rural affairs.His appointment would suggest that David Cameron is serious about appealing to the hunting lobby.