Some random reshuffle observations

I hope that you liked our marathon 6 hour live blog yesterday as the Reshuffle unfolded and our analysis from Nick, Stephen and Mark. Chances are you may have seen one or other of them on the television yesterday. Here’s Stephen on the Daily Politics, at about 16 and 27 minutes in.

I thought I’d briefly add my random observations on the reshuffle.

Nukes, kids and jobs

As a long term supporter of David Laws, albeit for his skills rather than his economic outlook, I’m delighted to see him back. However, he has to have one of the weirdest jobs in the history of Government. In a brief that contains Trident, schools and a roving responsiblity for the economy, you just hope he has the ability to compartmentalise.

Department swap

I’m not sure that the Liberal Democrats have gained as a result of the Department swaps. I can see the rationale between swapping a seat at defence to one at Defra, given the number of MPs we have in rural seats. However, a position at International Development hardly makes up for losing one at one of the great Offices of State, the Foreign Office. If this is an attempt by the Conservatives to minimise our influence on Europe, they will be sadly mistaken given that Nick Clegg knows Europe and its institutions backwards and will not put up for any nonsense from the Eurosceptic Tories.

In and out

I am delighted to see Jo Swinson come in at Business, Innovation and Skills. As a former PPS to Vince Cable, she knows the issues in that Department and her role encompasses employee relations, consumer affairs and the postal service provide her with a great opportunity to make Liberal Democrat priorities a reality. This is the Department which will implement the extended parental leave, a liberal policy which gives parents the choice over who takes the majority of the leave when they have a child. Jo has a campaigning mind and is a personable media performer.

I am particularly upset to see the departure of Sarah Teather from Government. She had been an effective schools  minister and I am disappointed that another role was not found for her.

It’s good to see Tom Brake as Deputy Leader of the Commons but who will replace him as Chair of the Backbench Committee on Home Affairs and Equalities? This is a particularly important role as we’ve given away equalities to the Tories and the battle on web snooping is not yet won.

Don Foster as a former local councillor will make a sensible addition to the Department of Communities and Local Government.

Why on earth did we give equalities to the Tories?

I cannot understand why we gave away to the Tories a position from which so many key Liberal Democrat priorities were being implemented. What will happen now to Lynne Featherstone’s fantastic work on body image? The new Tory minister has a huge enthusiasm for marriage, as one of the architects of the Tory marriage tax break policies but it’s yet to be seen whether that extends to extending marriage to same sex couples. This is a battle Liberal Democrats cannot afford to lose, especially as the Holyrood parliament will be enacting legislation on allowing same sex civil and religious marriage this coming year. What will happen to Lynne’s work on tackling homophobic bullying and transphobia?

Thank goodness the Liberal Democrats are there

Imagine this Government without the restraining influence of the Liberal Democrats. A health secretary who voted in favour of a 12 week abortion limit and who at one time thought homeopathy was a good thing A justice secretary who doesn’t have much time for human rights. An equalities minister with a shocking record on equality issues. As I was writing this, Tim Farron popped up on the BBC News Channel to make exactly that point. He argued that the Tory move to the right was a sign of Cameron’s weak position within his own party. He added:

Liberal Democrats will be more valuable. As the Tories get more reactionary, we will need to hold them back.

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

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  • Another way of looking at this is we are facilitating a situation where a person supportive of homeopathy can be the health secretary. Under confidence and supply – these kinds of wrong thinking ministers might have less ability to do damage to our country.

  • “Why on earth did we give equalities to the Tories?”
    Er, so they can ditch any moves towards improved equality on gay rights? This is all about them sidelining gay marriage and moves to tackle homophobia.
    Overall, sadly, this reshuffle towards the Tory right may placate their internal party grumblings and enable them to recoup some votes from UKIP but will make the job of Liberal Democrats in government much harder on a range of key issues from equality to the environment and crucially on the economy.
    The Tories should not be allowed to get away with this. They should be hoist on their own petard as we show them up for how ideologically driven, evidence free, and out of touch they really are. Unfortunately, this is not helpful to rational compromise and good government of the country, but if they choose this route, then so be it.

  • A lot more measured that what you said on your own blog 🙂 Where FWIW I thought you we pretty much on the ball.

  • On a narrow point Don Foster was also DCLG spokesperiod for some time in opposition (rather more recently than he was an Avon County Councillor).

  • “Why on earth did we give equalities to the Tories?”

    Why indeed, and what’s the language coming out of the prime ministers mouth at the first PMQ

    He said

    “”Apparently he still fetches the coffee for him. Not very assertive and butch of the leader of the opposition, is it?”

    What typical foul stereotypical uncouth language from the prime minister.

    With the likes of this running our country is it any wonder equality will be on a downward trend

  • Charles Beaumont 6th Sep '12 - 8:16pm

    “What will happen now to Lynne Featherstone’s fantastic work on body image?” I don’t want to seem dismissive, but we are a liberal party and I seriously question whether this is something that a government minister should be taking action on, particularly at a time of urgent national economic crisis. It’s not that it doesn’t matter, but is it the place for government to “widen the definition of beauty” (as stated on the Home Office website)?

  • Stuart Mitchell 6th Sep '12 - 8:36pm

    “What will happen now to Lynne Featherstone’s fantastic work on body image?”

    I’m afraid the body image campaign was half-baked and I very much hope this is the end of it. Lynne Featherstone did not seem to appreciate the contradiction in saying “all women should be able to have confidence in their bodies” while at the same time making blatantly derogatory comments about thin women Being married to a thin woman, I found the whole tone of the campaign offensive. Caryn Franklin has shown that you don’t have to insult one body type in order to make women of a different body type feel better. Leave the job to her.

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