Opinion: the politics of the reshuffle

Lynne featherstone by paul walterNorman BakerThere has been a consistent thread running through Nick Clegg’s most recent government reshuffles: get good campaigners into posts where they can run successful high profile campaigns, implementing liberal policies and winning Liberal Democrat votes.

Put like that, it sounds uncontroversial, but when it has involved the departure of Jeremy Browne from government and swapping out from posts in the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence, it has been rather more controversial.

Which is why last week was significant. Two key parts of the plan were getting Lynne Featherstone in at the Department of International Development and (subsequently) getting Norman Baker in at the Home Office.

The combination of the two have given a huge boost to support for the African-led fight to end female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C).

Between them they have managed to build successful coalitions with other campaigners on the issue – especially important given the need for a successful campaign to be led by vocal voices from the countries most affected. They have also got the logjams over domestic prosecutions starting to ease up. Norman Baker’s determined persistence on this issue in the face of myriad bureaucracies is Norman at his best.

Last, and very much least – but still important for a political party – they’ve done all this with it clearly being the Liberal Democrats politically in the lead on the issue.

This was the theory of how the reshuffles were meant to work out. Reality is matching and justifying that theory.

* Mark Pack is Party President and Co-leader of the party. He is editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire.

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  • Eddie Sammon 11th Feb '14 - 9:00am

    Reshuffles irritate me. Why don’t politicians have to abide by the employment rules they make everyone else follow?

  • Mark Pack has to be congratulated for trying to make bricks without straw. Not very convincing though.
    Is he trying to present Clegg as a genius of the art of re-shuffle?
    Nobody is going to believe that.

    Jeremy Browne went because he was a lightweight who failed to make an impact in either of his two ministerial posts and his failure over the ‘immigrants Go Home’ posters was the ineptitude that broke the camel’s back.

    To suggest that losing Nick Harvey from Defence was anything other than a deal to get Laws back stretches credibility too far.

    Lynne Feathersone and Norman Baker were already doing good things before they we’re reshuffled.

    A liberal Democrat woman in the Cabinet would have indicated some political nous by Clegg. But after four years the number of Liberal Democrat women in the Cabinet is similar to the number of by election successes under Clegg.

  • Nonconformistradical 11th Feb '14 - 10:07am

    @Chris Ecclestone

    “Gosh, I was going well with the article thinking we were going to have LibDem initiatives on peace in the Middle East or some other foreign relations breakthrough.. then it turned out to be FGM….a concerning issue.. but not to the electorate… party of government-type stuff, I don’t think so…”

    What a cynical post. Apparently you feel the party should only focus on issues of extreme relevance to a large sector of the electorate????? And ignore those which are manifestly the right thing to do but which don’t have what you might call ‘large-scale appeal’…..

  • Estimates are that 66,000 girls in the UK are at risk of the practice of FGM (four types of the practice – see below extract from WHO site). I challenge anyone to find that such a vile breach of human rights is analygous to an issue regarding bus shelters.


    Female genital mutilation is classified into four major types.
    1.Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals) and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).
    2.Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (the labia are “the lips” that surround the vagina).
    3.Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris.
    4.Other: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area. “

  • Quite Jo. I’m rather more fanatical about graffiti on bus shelters or potholes in the road than even more Lib Dem activists (!), but as you say, FGM is in a whole different league.

  • Sorry as much as FGM is important, I could never understand Clegg giving up FCO and Defence. In addition, I am still to be convinced that Alistair Carmichael is doing a better job than Michael Moore in fighting for a united UK. In short, I have very little confidence in Clegg’s political judgements.

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