Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The New Cabinet

A few quick thoughts. My main surprise - as for many - was reserved for Theresa May's appointment as Home Secretary. I don't find her particularly impressive on television; she is a rather pedestrian performer, with little ability to go beyond a well learned brief. With the talent of two parties at Cameron's disposal, I couldn't quite believe that he really thought she was the best person for the job, and wondered whether a need for female representation was a more pressing issue. Shades of the unfortunate Jacqui Smith started to hove into view. However, the Telegraph's Benedict Brogan, a seasoned observer, does take a more positive view, so it's possible I'm being unfairly negative.

Vince Cable is clearly the Lib Dem who is least comfortable in his coalition role. Liam Fox will reassure the Tories about Trident, and since he has been shadowing the post and built up an expertise about the state of the armed forces, he is likely to be able to hit the ground running. William Hague is an increasingly admired Conservative politician, certainly more than able to hold his own at international gatherings, and with the makings of a great foreign secretary. He may hope that President Sarkozy doesn't ask him about his notorious Have I Got News For You comment many moons ago, when he described the French, to Ian Hislop's delight, as "cheese eating surrender monkeys" (about 5.20 in on this video here).

It was always unlikely that George Osborne wouldn't get the Chancellorship, given his closeness to David Cameron - despite the rumours, faithfully blogged here, about Clarke etc. He is an under-rated performer with a terrible public image (but perhaps as Chancellor he doesn't see a need to be popular) but a possible canny grasp of what is needed. Accompanied by the very able Lib Dem MP David Laws as his Chief Secretary, the man who will actually execute the cuts across Whitehall, this again has the potential to be a very effective team.

It was good to see Michael Gove at Education, and good to see the return of a straightforward name for that department. Gove's ideas were amongst the more interesting and coherent in the Tory manifesto, and his performance over the past few days has been very sure-footed. Ken Clarke is also a fine appointment for Justice, even if, by his own admission, he is very out of date on legal issues and has a lot of work to do. But that's Ken.

Overall impression is very strong, and this coalition is a lot more interesting and exciting than a majority Tory government would have been.

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