Reshuffle Time

Peter Hain's resignation prompted a mini-reshuffle which saw the photo-shopping Culture Secretary James Purnell promoted to Work and Pensions. The details of the reshuffle are here.

And have the Tories been caught on the hop? They didn't call for Hain's resignation, and are now being asked why, given that they have spent today saying he was right to go!


consultant said…
It’s all looking rather grim for Gordon at the moment. Since the election-that-never-was, he’s been beset by one crisis after another; Northern Rock, the trickle of scandals over donations (which has now claimed a ministerial scalp), his ridiculous police pay dispute, the debacle over the European treaty. His government appears to be in turmoil, blundering from one disaster to the next.

Even if we put these specific incidents to one side, we find his position still weak. After a decade in power, there is a serious case to be made that Labour has failed to really deliver on the key issues – on education, on healthcare, on crime and anti-social behaviour – that we are told the voters really care about.

So we have a government that looks incompetent in the short term, and looks to be running out of ideas that work in the long term. Set this against the backdrop of a global economic downturn (we’ll avoid the R word for now), and it starts to look like a perfect storm for the Tories.

But this is where things don’t quite add up. The Tories have achieved a modest and consistent lead in opinion polls, but it is nothing like what one might expect given current circumstances, and certainly nothing like the lead they will need to secure a solid election victory. The truth is that Cameron has done nothing to convince the electorate that he is capable of being Prime Minister. As you say, he’s been caught on the hop in the current scandal, but his early silence is possibly more to do with concerns about his own party’s funding. On Northern Rock he’s flip-flopped around, seeming delighted that Brown is in such a mess but not really sure how he might capitalise on it, especially since his own party was so in favour of the banking deregulation that has led us to this situation.

And on the wider issues, he seems completely lost. I said there are strong cases to be made against the government across the policy spectrum, but he seems incapable of making them. In place of Tory policies, we have vague and contradictory reports being produced by the party. Ideas seem to come and go as quickly as it takes him to try to score a point across the despatch box. And even his performances there have been eclipsed by the Lib Dem benches in recent months.

Even the bleak economic outlook will probably count against him. If Brown and Darling are able to chart a course over the coming year which allows Britain to avoid the worst of the fall-out from the US economic troubles, they will bolster Labour’s hard-earned reputation for economic competence, in comparison with which Cameron and Osborne look like amateurs.

Cameron cannot build an election victory out of simply looking good when viewed in the light of Brown’s woes. As you might expect from Bullingdon Club scum, he seems to be sitting back to wait for power to come to him. If he doesn’t learn soon that he needs to go out and get it, the Tories can look forward to a longer spell in opposition yet.

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