LibLink: Stephen Tall – Will the reshuffle actually matter?

Our own Stephen Tall has been analysing the Reshuffle over at Endeavour Public Affairs.

He says that an opportunity to pursue a more radical economic agenda has been missed:

The Government should be building on this with a radical and popular agenda to create a more competitive and much, much fairer economy, as I argued here on LibDemVoice.  This would mean further banking reform than currently proposed, for example by separating completely retail and investment banking, and parcelling up and selling on the currently state-owned banks into a number of smaller ones to create greater plurality in the system.  More than this, it should be looking to re-invigorate capitalism by ensuring success not failure is rewarded, with shareholders given powers genuinely to hold executives to account for their performance. Nothing in the reshuffle suggests the Coalition is gearing up for this challenge.

He talks about the relative ideological positions within both Liberal Democrats and Conservatives:

Put bluntly: the Cameron modernisation project to position his party in the political centre is dead.  This reshuffle marked a definite shift to the right for the Tories.  By contrast, the two newest Lib Dem ministers – Jo Swinson and Tom Brake – are squarely in the mainstream of the party, neither identified with the economically liberal ‘Orange Bookers’ nor the Social Liberal Forum.

You can read the article in full here.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in LibLink.


  • I can suggest three changes which will make a difference to our 2015 chances:

    1) Heathrow. Putting Patrick McLoughlin into Transport is gearing up for the 3rd runway to go into the 2015 Tory manifesto. This should secure Twickenham, help in Sutton & Cheam and Kingston & Surbiton, and give us a good chance of getting Richmond Park back, depending on how the Tories manage Zac Goldsmith. Listening to Mary McLeod on Newsnight last night, it’s clear that local Tories will dissent, so the narrative of party splits on this issue could have a wider impact.

    2) Farming. Putting David Heath in at DEFRA as Farming Minister gives us the chance to get some achievements in agriculture on the board, which will impact upon rural seats, not least his own.

    3) Equalities issues. With the brief moving from Lynne Featherstone to Maria Miller, this could work either way. We risk either losing or losing credit on key achievements, but the Tories now have responsibility for issues which are likely to frustrate their core support. Any U-turns will also play into our hands as showing how thin the Tory commitment to equality is, My hunch is that the Tories will come to regret this change.

  • “My hunch is that the Tories will come to regret this change.”

    You are spot on there. In providing red meat to the baying Tory right, Cameron has unwittingly exposed the fact that the Tories remain the extremist party they always were. The Cameron “modernising” project has been ditched and this will create a bigger space for the Lib Dems to occupy in future. Don’t forget that according to Yougov of those who voted Lib Dem in 2010, some 9% have actually drifted off to the Conservatives, equivalent to two percentage points on our poll rating and two percent off theirs. In many Tory/Lib Dem marginal seats this could make all the difference.

    While the main objective is still to win back deserters from Labour, this reshuffle could turn out to be part of the Lib Dems’ longer term salvation, particularly as post 2015 policy options (e.g. Heathrow, Trident, workplace rights etc.) come to be spelt out in detail .

  • Peter Watson 5th Sep '12 - 2:06pm

    @tpfkar “My hunch is that the Tories will come to regret this change.”
    If the perception is that Lib Dems are propping up an increasingly right-wing tory party then we might come to regret it as well.

  • @tpfkar “My hunch is that the Tories will come to regret this change.”

    Whilst the items you mention may turn out to be plus points, don’t you think that they are outweighed by some potential problems for you?

    E.g. If the economy does start picking up in the next couple of years, the Tories have quite a good attack line:
    “We had to draft in some heavy hitters into BIS as the Dept. seemed to be coasting along and not achieving much”.
    (helps give the impression that LDs aren’t really much good at business – it will be doubly effective if the new appointees are seen to be pushing things for business and all VC seems to do is obsess about banks)

    What if non EU exports improve:
    “When we first arrived in Government, we decided that we needed to beef up the trade missions within the FO so that we were less susceptible to events caused by the dead hand of Europe”
    (Helps reinforce the impression that the LDs are EU obsessives – whereas the Tories believe in global trade).

    Laws – enough has been said about him, so I’ll just say that obviously you’ll need to find something to replace the “we’re squeaky clean” message from the past, as well as countering the obvious attack lines that will be headed your way.

    Re point 3, regardless of what happens, the Tories can always say that the LDs have stopped the repatriation of powers, meaning that farmers could have been a lot better off as they may not have been subject to CAP etc.
    (they wouldn’t have to prove that farmers would have been better off, they just have to talk about CAP waste again to highlight the difference between the 2 parties).

    Of course if things don’t improve at all, then Peter Watson may be right and you’ll get equal blame.
    “Events dear boy, events”

    The trouble for both parties is that big issues over which they have no control may help or hinder them – all you can do is hope.

  • Hi Chris, taking your points in turn:

    1) Not at all worried about the Tories reshuffling in business; it’s essentially the same structure as before. The Conservatives might be fed up with Vince, but polling clearly shows that he carries public opinion (to the point that he is top of polls for who should be chancellor) and has a strong record in coming out well of public spats on policy. In fact there was a real risk for the Tories in proposing policies which Vince could use as easy Lib Dem PR opportunities in stopping. Sadly Cameron has chosen Michael Fallon who is far too shrewd and sensible for this. In reality I can see them forming a strong team, however much frothing there might be from the outside.

    2) Why would the Lib Dems have a problem with non-EU trade? Nick Clegg himself visited Brazil earlier this summer for exactly this reason and there is no question that our ability to grow in the medium term is linked to our ability to do business with emerging economies such as India, OPEC countries, and the far East. I can’t see this getting any traction beyond partisan Conservatives. Indeed many Tories have a blind spot in their favourite description of the Lib Dems as ‘EU obsessives’ – they can’t get their heads round the idea that whatever your views on Europe, it’s not what gets you out of bed in the morning, The constitently low positioning of Europe in the monthly ICM issues poll makes sobering reading to them. (You could easily argue that many Lib Dems have a similar issue in not understanding the lack of passion of other parties towards Constitutional Reform, when it provokes similar passion in many Lib Dems as Europe does to the Tories – one aspect the coalition could have worked better is in each side understanding how central these issues were to the other one.)

    3) David Laws’ return is surely the biggest danger to the Lib Dems in this reshuffle and you are right to highlight this. However his potential value in Government – as well as his ability to bridge the gap between the coalition partners – makes it a risk worth taking.

    4) Can’t say much on CAP as not a policy area I’m familiar with, however assuming that there would be winners and losers from any change (which is generally true, how many times do we see long interviews on the media from those who will lose out from any change in Government policy even when the majority benefit?) then this would be unlikely to be clear cut.

    Of course any Government is at the mercy of events, that comes with the territory and more than usual at the moment – but it’s time for the Government to focus on what it does have control over and on delivering it well.

  • @tpfkar
    Thanks for responding, but I think we’re talking about different things. Your points are based on what may happen in reality and I was actually talking about perception (which is probably more important 😉 ). In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if there were no out and out attacks, I would expect things to be more subtle.

    As an example, I agree that BIS will probably be fairly harmonious out of necessity. But I wouldn’t be surprised if any new action for business (especially in the SME area) had wording that implied it is happening because of the new Tory ministers.

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