Cabinet reshuffle analysis: Risk of igniting rows
Downing Street presented its reshuffle as a largely managerial affair, designed to ensure that the right people are in place to implement the reforms which the Government legislated for during its first two years in power.
But it was also being seen by many in Westminster as a political revamp, intended to shore up David Cameron’s position with an increasingly restive Conservative Party at the risk of further chilling relations with Liberal Democrat coalition partners.
Ministers who had become bogeymen to the Tory right, including Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke and party co-chair Baroness Warsi, have been shunted sideways and replaced by new faces more in keeping with traditional Conservative thinking.
Law and order hardliner Chris Grayling is likely to lend more of an ear to Tory gripes about the Human Rights Act and the European courts than veteran Mr Clarke, while new chairman Grant Shapps is expected to be more active in championing the Conservative message than Baroness Warsi, who was criticised by some in the party for her relatively low-key approach.
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Mr Cameron appears to be hoping that he can neutralise the political impact of some of the Government’s most contentious policies with a change of faces in his top team.
But the shake-up risks igniting new rows which could prove equally toxic.
Already, London Mayor Boris Johnson has launched a broadside at Mr Cameron over Ms Greening’s move, accusing him of secretly plotting to ditch the Government’s promise not to allow a third runway at Heathrow airport.
And senior backbencher Peter Lilley has warned that giving Mr Clarke a wide-ranging advisory role on policy areas including the economy risks “confusion” if his views clash with those of Chancellor George Osborne.
Questions have also been asked about Mr Hunt’s previous support for homeopathy and for a reduction in the time-limit for abortions, as well as his reported attempt to remove passages celebrating the NHS from the opening ceremony for the Olympics.