Which of the five Lib Dem reshuffle options will Nick Clegg pick?

Five scenarios for your delectation:

The Lib Dem night of the long beards

The drastic, dramatic and painful option. Clegg says the Liberal Democrats need David Laws’s expertise and media savvy at the heart of economic decision making, restoring him to Chief Secretary to the Treasury and expressing tearful regret that Danny Alexander is off out of the Cabinet, with a resting place as a new Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Cabinet Office where he will not have to handle quite so many tricky TV interviews.

Education, education, education

Too problematic to bring back Laws in a tax and cut role? Bring him in back in his area of policy interest and expertise then, decides Clegg, bringing Laws in for Teather, shifting Teather sideways with the non-Cabinet male Lib Dem ministers playing a game of scissors, paper, stone to decide who gets the chop as Clegg preserves a modicum of concern over male-dominated politics.

Clegg means it when he says he wants more women

Out go Baker, Harvey, Moore and Stunell and in come Burt, Swinson and up go Featherstone and Teather as Clegg says, “I admit it. It would be too embarrassing if the first Lib Dem coalition in a century started, continued and ended dominated by men and with an all-male Lib Dem Cabinet line up”.

Celebrity politics for a celebrity age

Lembit Opik becomes made a life peer, coming in to government at transport with a plan of a free Segway for every child in receipt of free school meals. “Lembit is taking our social mobility drive to an all-new all-star level”, explains Clegg.

Appearance is all

David Heath asked to shave off his beard as Clegg talks about the need for the Liberal Democrats to look like a party in government, non-hirsute variety.

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

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45 Comments

  • I hope Nick Clegg realises that bringing David Laws back will not look good and his opponents, and those of his party, will delight in making considerable capital out of it. In terms of PR, at a time the Coalition are cutting benefits for all and sundry, to bring back one of the worst offenders for overclaiming entitlements would be a little rash.

  • I don’t understand the David Laws cult thing. The fact is he was caught with his hand in the till and will compound the Lib Dem’s suicidal drift rightwards.

  • Simon Beard 14th May '12 - 3:07pm

    I’d take the drastic step of combining two and three, promote Teather and bring back Laws. It will at least shut the David Laws fundamentalist fanatics up for a while AND help to counter the argument that the coalition is anti woman.

    The ministers who have done most to gain a public reputation is probably Lynne Featherstone, apart form her I don’t think anyone but a real geek could name any of our non Cabinet ministers, a drastic change might just help to improve this, and certainly Laws would get a high profile.

  • Of course, this all assumes that the coalition decides to keep the “slots” all the same (i.e. certain posts are reserved for Lib Dems and others for Cons). Whilst that makes sense in the context of a limited reshuffle, I think that in a wider reshuffle, it makes much more sense to move them around. For example, whatever one thinks of his politics (which I personally dislike), Gove has been a success at Education and might be in line for another post but in such case, a Lib Dem would probably be a better replacement.

    Given the party’s issues with female representation, I am sure that he will also be keen to put at least one female Lib Dem in the cabinet. My suggestion would be to replace Michael Moore (nice but ineffective) with Jo Swinson.

  • Michael Moore ineffective? He swotted Salmond all over the park with the lastest Scotland Bill (now Act).

  • David Laws was suspended from the HoC due to expenses fraud. If you read the actual outcome of the inquiry you will see he was given the benefit of the doubt which prevented him from a visit in front of the beak.

    Before we here this wailing about him claiming less than he was entitled to – that is wrong, in the circumstances in which he was living he should not have been claiming. Also there is the mystery as to why his claims for sundries dropped when he had to produce receipts.

  • In order to bring David Laws back to government in a senior position, it should not be necessary either to demote Danny Alexander or to shift Sarah Teather to another ministry. Although the Conservative/Liberal Democrat balance in the Cabinet is fixed, there are currently five senior Conservatives ministers – Maude, Letwin, Willetts, Sir George Young and MCLoughlin (Chief Conservative Whip in the House of Commons) – who are not technically members of the Cabinet but who have the right to attend all Cabinet meetings. It would be both feasible and justifiable to add one Liberal Democrat – David Laws – to these five, and all that he would need to have to qualify him for this status would be the rank of Minister of State in Nick Clegg’s office (or something of that kind).

  • jenny barnes 14th May '12 - 4:47pm

    Isn’t David Laws the author of the chapter in the Orange book on Health? Yes it was http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/feb/28/nhs-bill-private-insurance
    so I think he should get Health. Gove may have been successful politically, but I don’t think I can unreservedly praise the centralisation and privatision of the state school system. Teather has hardly made it clear that LDs have any problem with that. Maybe the leadership don’t. Lansley goes to Culture Media Sport, Hunt to somewhere quiet in Surrey to recover for a bit. Beaker loses his treasury role, replaced by Vince, and a tory gets the business brief.

  • Ditch Teather and bring in a woman who knows what she’s talking about
    Ditch Moore (cant afford invisible Cabinet ministers) and move Alexander to Scotland, giving space for Laws at Treasury.
    Ditch Harvey and bring in another woman.

  • No support for Tim Farron?

  • Tim Farron is best outside the Govt, so that he can come in after 2015 as a figure untainted by the Coalition. I say this as a coalitionista.

  • Trevor Stables 14th May '12 - 8:44pm

    Most effective move would to bring Matthew Oakeshott into the Treasury!

  • Pull the other one g, Laws was underclaiming benefits. Would have been much better off financially out of the closet.

  • Howard and Lorraine 14th May '12 - 9:55pm

    All sounds like musical chairs to us.

  • Jen
    Whether or not Laws would have been better off without committing fraud is irrelevant. He was caught and if I’m honest. I don’t buy his excuses, because they don’t actually make sense. He’s not trustworthy and in a climate where the public dislikes politicians and sees them as corrupt he’s looks weak and compromised,

  • “Tim Farron is best outside the Govt, so that he can come in after 2015 as a figure untainted by the Coalition. ”

    Think about how much has happened in the last 2 years. Then think about the implications of planning to achieve nothing at all (other than failing to reform the Lords) for the next three years, in the vain hope that we could pick ourselves up after that. Does Tim really want to lead the one-taxi Lib Dems after 2015?

  • After the complete shambles the current administration of ministers has been, with their ineptitudes, breeches of ministerial codes and down right dirty politics that is so despised and was promised to be cleaned up by the Government, giving us a new, open and transparent politics Mwha ha ha

    I think it would be ludicrous to bring back laws, you can see the Head Lines now and Labour would capitalise on that and rightly so.

    If you believe that in your party of 57 MP’s only a very select few are competent enough of being in government in Ministerial Roles, what the heck are you doing in Government in a coalition in the first place.

    Incidentally, I notices the right to recall MP’s was not included in the queens speech again this year. Hmmm I wonder, could that be because half of the cabinet including the Prime minister could have been subjected to one.

    So much for new politics

  • I don’t agree on Tim Farron. Either we think he has talent – in which case we should want to use him in govt, or we don’t, in which case we should not see him as a leader in waiting.

  • Richard Dean 15th May '12 - 1:02am

    I agree with Howard and Lorraine, but worse. This discussion feels to me like farmers at a cattle market discussing the merits of cows. I suppose it’s democracy in action, and therefore to be supported, but there’s something about it that I don’t feel is right at all. There seems to be a tone of disrespect for some of our most successful and able people. Apologies if this comment offends.

  • patricia roche 15th May '12 - 5:32am

    I find this topic a tad depressing. How nice that you wnt to ‘dress up’ the coalition with a woman, presumably to say to women, look, we represent you. As one blogger said, people either have talent, or not. And there is still the question of bringing someone back who, for whatever reasons, fiddled the system. I find this to be upsetting, as a voter and as a taxpayer.

  • Euan Davidson 15th May '12 - 8:24am

    Replacing Danny Alexander with David Laws would be an utter disaster it would make us look even more like Tories lite and as if we weren’t bothered he had his hand in the till.

  • I thought Mark’s article was tongue in cheek anyway. Any reshuffle is limited to those who broadly can take an economically “right” view, as this is presumably a requirement.

  • Leave Danny where he is, he is doing fine! Yes!-retire Gove and promote Teather, retire Harvey and promote Burt, but definitely make space for Tim Farron and Tessa Munt – both plain speakers, to head up the new Department of Showing our Radical Differences, ie standing for the ordinary folk and holding the Public Schoolboys to account.

  • Helen Dudden 15th May '12 - 12:32pm

    David Heath MP, is much respected, He is the MP for the small villages and a town very near to where I live. He works like nothing else, and as I said, is much respected. If I was him, and I wished not to shave my beard, then stand up again David for what you believe in. He is most certainly one MP, that deserves to be where he is. He is very hard working and the people respect him. What rubbish is written on the subject of what people look like. I applaud those MP’s who work hard and make the most of where they have been put, by the people who voted for them.

  • Peter Watson 15th May '12 - 2:01pm

    In a cabinet reshuffle I think Health is a poison chalice for any Lib Dem. In the short term it will raise all the obvious issues of betrayal, etc. In the longer term, if the NHS reforms are an obvious success (cards on the table – I don’t think they will be) then Lansley will claim credit for the Tories that he was right all along, and if the NHS does not improve then whoever is in that chair when the music stops will be doomed. Leave the job of Health Secretary for a Conservative.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 15th May '12 - 2:56pm

    The two who are most talked about as having gone native (after Clegg) are Alexander and Teather, but I suspect that replacing one of them with Laws would make little difference. Surprised that no LibDems think Hughes is of sufficient calibre to be a Govt minister. Cable clearly isn’t very comfortable with what he is doing at present – so I wouldn’t be at alll suprised if he is looking for a reshuffle.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 15th May '12 - 2:59pm

    Given the limited talent pool among LibDem MPs I could easily see some Ministers being brought in from outside.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 15th May '12 - 3:04pm

    “to head up the new Department of Showing our Radical Differences” I daresay Cameron could add a few of his own to that department and then give it a task with a pretty much zero chance of success – House of Lords reform springs to mind among other things.

  • Richard Swales 15th May '12 - 7:31pm

    My understanding is that Laws didn’t break the letter (he was not in a marriage-like relationship with his live-in partner, they didn’t have joint accounts etc.) or the spirit of the rules (being to stop one paying one’s spouse and therefore oneself rent directly from the public purse). However in resigning he pleaded guilty, and that’s what counts.

  • Richard Swales

    I think you are being very generous in your interpretation

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmstnprv/1023/102303.htm#a7

  • Peter, according to their Wikipedia articles, both Teather and Munt were both independent school educated (Munt at least partly). No detail on Burt. Farron was state educated. Holding the public schoolboys (and girls) to account is difficult among our group of MPs!

  • Helen Tedcastle 16th May '12 - 5:08pm

    MarkG: ‘Gove has been a success at Education and might be in line for another post but in such case, a Lib Dem would probably be a better replacement.’

    I am surprised to read a comment like this on a Lib Dem thread. Gove has been a disasterous Education Secretary – his policies are eye-wateringly Tory – socially divisive and unashamedly elitist

    I have just read in the newspapers today that Gove has found a number of well-known Tory donors to fund his scheme to send a King James Bible to every school, and he wants to abolish national pay-scales for teachers.
    Is this a coalition policy for education or is it explicitly and wholeheartedly Tory?

    If the latter, why isn’t our leadership stopping this?

  • mark fairclough 16th May '12 - 5:49pm

    Tim Farron as the next LibDem leader,
    i hope not , anyone but him.
    David Laws must be brought back into the cabinet.
    Danny Alexander is doing a good job as the chief secretary

  • Ben Jephcott 17th May '12 - 8:03pm

    I hope Mark is being deliberately flippant! Norman Baker has been a true star of the coalition, driving both Hammond and Villiers to a progressive pro-rail policy outcome from a starting point as knee-jerk ‘petrol heads’. Justine Greening seeks to work well with him and it would be madness to reshuffle a success story.

    As for David Laws, please please please do not put him into education to add even more fervour to the Gove crusade and further mute any senior Lib Dems (there are plenty) who are appalled by it but seem inhibited from speaking out.

    David is supremely talented at economics but I have to say his views on education do not conform to Lib Dem policy or principle, it was a constant battle when he was spokesperson to get him to oppose small school closures (unlike Nick, it must be said). If he is deemed to be ok re his expenses problem I would put him back in the treasury, the brief which really suits him and where he would be challenging rather than agreeing with his Tory boss. Muscular Liberalism, yes please/

    We need a woman cabinet minister, full stop. Lynne, Sarah and Jo are all more effective than Danny or Michael, so it should be pretty easy to find one.

  • mark fairclough 18th May '12 - 1:38pm

    I am be serious when i say definately not Tim Farron as party leader

  • How about the party at large decides to act, at last, and insists that no-one who took part in the coalition negotiations, or who broke their pledge on tuition fees, should sit in cabinet?

  • If David Laws’s reputation is so damaged, then the only solution is to give him a prominent role in Government where he can redeem himself – but it didn’t work for Mandelson, did it?

    I agree we need to keep Tim free of the shackles of ministerial chores and “collective responsibility”. A possible compromise would be to allow him to attend Cabinet meetings so he can tell the room what the party thinks. After all, the Tory Chairman Baroness Warsi attends, doesn’t she? If he has to be in the Cabinet, make him Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

  • ………………….It would hide his weak chin and make him look slightly like Tsar Nicholas II…

    Tsar Nicholas II was a pretty hopeless leader and came to a sticky end……………Well, Nick has already laid claim to the first bit

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