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A shift to the Right or a shift to ooooomph?

By Tim Montgomerie
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The left-wing newspapers all portray yesterday's reshuffle as a shift to the Right. They regret it; the Mail does not. And there certainly are more Mainstream Conservatives in the Cabinet and in more senior positions:

  • The promotion of Chris Grayling to Justice is the most obvious example of this. But Theresa Villiers' arrival at the Northern Ireland Office means her's is also another Eurosceptic voice at Government's top table. I'm delighted for both of them. Both raised some serious questions about the Coalition Agreement when the then shadow cabinet met after the general election. The fact that neither got into the real Cabinet soon afterwards was seen as a punishment for their candour. Justice, in more than one sense, has now been done.
  • The Right also gains in Owen Paterson's big promotion. Owen is a keen environmentalist but he's a local conservationist rather than a change-the-world climate change advocate. He's also very pro-enterprise as a former businessman himself and will strike a good balance between the needs of agriculture and of countryside groups. Britain's fishing industry will love his appointment. As fisheries minister in opposition he persuaded Michael Howard to leave the CPF.
  • The third gain is Grant Shapps. I'll publish my suggested action list for Grant, probably on Friday, but not only is Grant closer to grassroots views than Baroness Warsi, it's just good to have a new Chairman who is an MP, a listener, good on TV and a proven campaigner.
Overall, however, I think it's wrong to over-state the ideological shift in the Cabinet. The Left do not need to be so afraid and the Tory newspapers shouldn't get too excited. The key jobs are still in the same hands and the Coalition is still in place. Nick Clegg's people are this morning briefing the BBC's Norman Smith not to expect any big changes in direction, insisting "we're not going to allow a phalanx of new right wing policies".

The reality of the reshuffle is that it's a shift to implementation rather than in an ideological direction. Not a big movement to the Right but an effort to simply move forward. The PM's Mail on Sunday article revealed his deep frustration at the difficulty of making things happen - at the Whitehall treacle and at the power of vested interests. This reshuffle was primarily about putting the Conservative Party's best people in the places where the bottlenecks to growth are most serious. That's why Matt Hancock and Michael Fallon have been sent to business; why Nick Boles is going to planning; why Liz Truss has been given the childcare post; and why Sajid Javid and Greg Clark have been sent to strengthen the Treasury team. This shift to making-things-happen is most embodied by the recruitment of Paul Deighton as a new Minister for Economic Delivery. The man who will soon be Lord Deighton oversaw the success of London 2012 and hopefully he'll bring some of the Olympic can-doism with him to Whitehall.

Cameron hopes that in the boring detail of administrative improvement will come the incrementral improvements that will add up to jobs and business expansion. If he was entirely serious about the agenda we would also have seen the likes of John Redwood and Mark Field given a leg up but yesterday was definitely progress. As I write in today's Daily Mail, a clever rather than an exciting reshuffle.


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