Little known reshuffle fact: there are now MORE Lib Dem ministers

Compared to many a previous government reshuffle, this week’s went at a pretty standard rate. It felt, however, slower. Slower because our speeded up news cycle and appetite for instant updates, fed above all by Twitter, means that spreading out a series of announcements over several hours feels slow and bitty.

You don’t have to go very far back in time for a reshuffle that takes a good part of the day still to feel quick to most as it would all be heard about in one wrap-up report in the evening news, a further one in the next day’s paper and then the same again as the more junior posts were sorted. Instead, in a world of rolling news, live blogs and social media the drip drip real time information makes the same process feel far more elongated.

Another impact is that we all (myself and this site included) make judgements that are running commentary; partial views based on partial information. It’s worth therefore sometimes taking a step back at the end, recapping and checking what the complete picture looks like.

Here then is the complete (I think and hope!) list of changes in posts for the Liberal Democrats as a result of the reshuffle. The ‘evacuation’ of the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence caught much early comment in the process; how does it look set against the overall picture now?

Changes in posts held by Liberal Democrats

Attendees at Cabinet: +1 (David Laws)
Foreign & Commonwealth Office: -1 Minister of State
Ministry of Defence: -1 Minister of State
Home Office: -1 junior minister

Home Office: +1 Minister of State
Department of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs: +1 Minister of State
International Development: +1 junior minister
Welsh Office: +1 junior minister

The arguments used to justify these switches are:

  • A reshuffle that results in more Liberal Democrats in government is a good thing. (Well, I presume that’s what someone is saying. Must admit until I did the maths I had not noticed anyone in the party noting the numbers had gone up…!)
  • Major foreign policy issues end up crossing the Deputy Prime Minister’s desk anyway, and the key issue for the party on Defence is Trident, the review into which is being transferred from the MoD to David Laws’s new roving brief.
  • Having a more senior ministerial post in the Home Office is very useful given the number of key issues, particularly on civil liberties, that pass through the department. (The reality of what happens to equal marriage and how Jeremy Browne approaches the Draft Communications Data Bill will quickly tell us a lot about whether this holds up.)
  • The DEFRA post is a vital one given the number of problems the department has thrown up for the party and the large number of Liberal Democrat MPs from rural seats.
  • Both the DFID and Welsh posts also strengthen the party’s ability to appeal to key constituencies. On DFID it is not only that it is an area traditionally of concern to many Liberal Democrats, it is also that DFID handles issues in countries which many voters have close family ties with.

That’s the theory. How does it look to you?


Updated to remove my erroneous reference to Ken Clarke.

* Mark Pack is Party President and is the editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire.

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  • Surely it’s not just +1 for the Tories though given Baroness Wassi will also be going to the Cabinet not to mention all the other Tory attendees at Cabinet like David Willets, Oliver Letwin etc et.

  • I’m afraid I can’t see that having a Minister in DFID will make much difference to us to be honest it certainly isn’t worth losing someone in the FCO or MOD for. I remember Tom Brake saying when he had our shadow DFID brief before 2005 that there was so much consensus between all parties on the issues that there was very little to get out of it politically.

    Do we seriously think looking at this reshuffle that we can see the prospects of there being fewer damaging things to our party coming out of government in the next two years than in the past two years?

  • Grammar Police 6th Sep '12 - 10:02am

    I think that comments like the one about about Defence and the FCO are quite silly (but then again, anyone who talks about “the uncritical europhilia that has been our Lib-Dem diet to date” on their blog probably is a bit silly). Also, the number of MPs is now not going to be reduced.

    As is rightly pointed out, it’s unlikely that the lack of a minister in the MoD/FCO is unlikely to prevent the Lib Dems kicking up a fuss about big defence or foreign policy issues. In terms of things that Lib Dem voters care about, international development probably comes high (but then again, so do equality issues). Rural and environmental affairs also matter in many LD constituencies.

    But what matters most is going to be whether Lib Dem ministers can show liberal values in action. An example in point would be Tom McNally, not doing it at Justice. He explained to a number of legal aid service providers at Conference last year that his job as a minister in the Lords was to get the LASPO bill through in its unamended form. Frankly this is not the right approach for a *coalition* minister, who is bound to deal with some elements of it (it might be just about good enough if we had a majority LD Government). Paul Burstow on the other hand, talked about possible compromises on the health bill, and explained why they were important to him as a Lib Dem.

  • I see no rationale for the replacement of Andrew Stunell by Don Foster at the DCLG. If we are to start the “differentiation” process from the Tories, Don has been heard to make some rather Tory supportive noises recently. It is true that Andrew doesn’t seem to have done a spectacular job holding back Pickles in some of his “loony right” ideas, but I seriously doubt whether Don will rein him in much, either. Both are, of course at the upper end of the age spectrum, and therefore it cannot be argued that new younger blood is being sought.

    In terms of diversity etc of ministerial identity, with Nick Harvey’s departure, I can’t see any frontbenchers from Devon and Cornwall, a key area for the survival and prosperity of the party.

  • Grammar Police 6th Sep '12 - 10:40am

    Here’s a good quote from Henry IV, Pt 1 @jedibeeftrix

    Glendower. I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

    Hotspur (Henry Percy). Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them?

  • toryboysnevergrowup 6th Sep '12 - 8:45pm

    “How does it look to you?”

    Clutching at straws, glug,glug, glug

    The number of articles written trying to convince us all that the LibDems have done well out of the reshuffle speaks volumes – and I supect the writers know this al too well.

    My guess is that the Tory plan is now to move towards a £10bn of benefits for tax cuts election campaign and in the meantime just ignore the LibDems – apart from those who are prepared to act as human cover for anything that is unpopular.

  • Charles Beaumont 6th Sep '12 - 9:06pm

    The idea that you can count ministers and then decide whether the LDs have done well is crazy. Other than Clegg, what proportion of the other ministers are known to the public at all? Cable obviously. Possibly Alexander. Anyone else?

  • “Now the complete list is out we can compare like with like. We had 24 of the 121 appointments before the reshuffle representing 5.04% of Government posts. We now have 26 out of 129 appointments representing 4.96%.”

    You’ve divided 121 by 24 and called it a percentage. That’s completely wrong. You need to divide 24 by 121 and then multiply by 100.

    The percentages should be 19.8% (old) and 20.2% (new).

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