Cabinet reshuffle sketch: Has David Cameron played it a bit too safe?
David Cameron yesterday unveiled his first major reshuffle as Prime Minister – and it will be the only one before the next general election.
That means he had just one chance to get it right, as this team is the one he is relying on to deliver a majority in 2015. One South West Conservative told the Daily Press the Prime Minister would be “toast” if he got it wrong.
So the reshuffle – which continues today with more junior posts – was a curious mixture of playing it safe, and calculated risks.
The latter includes the return of Yeovil MP David Laws, who has two key jobs, at education and the Cabinet Office, or three with the review of the Trident nuclear deterrent.
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He is the Liberal Democrat most popular with the Conservatives, and the PM has been itching to get him back, after his spell as Chief Treasury Secretary ended after a few weeks back in 2010.
But it is a gamble, because Labour will highlight his resignation over his Commons expenses, a process that started even before his appointment was confirmed.
The other big risk is promoting Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to Health Secretary – just a few months after he was battling for his political life. The man once tipped as a future Tory leader was under huge pressure to resign over his links with Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, which emerged during the Leveson Inquiry.
The PM stood by him, even though the Lib Dems did not, and must be confident there will be nothing embarrassing in the final Leveson report later this year.
However Mr Cameron played it safe by keeping most of his Cabinet big beasts in place, including Foreign Secretary William Hague, Home Secretary Theresa May and Defence Secretary Philip Hammond.
He also retained all four Lib Dem Cabinet Ministers, resisting pressure from his backbenchers to move Business Secretary Vince Cable, who they see as far too leftwing.
And crucially, there was no change to the top Treasury team – which means no alterations of economic policy.
Despite the reshuffle dominating Westminster, the most significant event of this week may well turn out to be Chancellor George Osborne being booed as he presented medals at the Paralympics on Monday night. If he cannot drag the economy out of the double dip recession, the changes to the ministerial ranks will not save the Government from election disaster.