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Monday, October 07, 2013 

Reshuffling for the sake of it. Mainly.

If there's one thing in politics that enthuses the lobby hacks and those within the Westminster bubble like little else, while leaving everyone else bored stupid, it has to be the yearly festival of inanity which is the reshuffle.  The only real function it serves is, that in the fashion of politics being showbizness for ugly people, it lets us know who's hot and err, who's not.  Or, as it's properly known, who's been doing the most brown nosing and who's been mouthing off.  Talent and ability only rarely enter into proceedings, such is the way our glorious party-based democracy works.

This is even more the case when the prime minister has deigned not to switch around his cabinet ministers.  It would be lovely to think this is the result of common sense: only in politics is it thought a great idea for someone to be (nominally) in charge of say, defence and then the next day find that they've been moved to health, having only a year earlier been at the helm in the Home Office, but one suspects it's more down to how Cameron genuinely believes he had the best possible team in place, or at least can't dispense with the services of a Theresa May or Michael Gove lest they become a rallying point on the backbenches.  You could then attempt to decipher what it means that such names to conjure with as Esther McVey and Sajid Javid have climbed slightly further up the ministerial greasy pole while Mark Hoban and Chloe Smith have been defenestrated, or you could do something more useful, like teach a pig to sing. The idea that anyone's going to notice this glorified game of musical chairs has made the Tory front bench very slightly more female, northern and working class is a touching one.

Worth a smidgen more attention is Nick Clegg getting rid of Jeremy Browne, who the Tories liked as he was further to the right than some of them, and the promotion of Norman Baker, although mainly as that's alarmed the more easily bewildered, due to his previously espoused view that Dr David Kelly was murdered. The idea that he's suddenly going to turn the Home Office into a habitat for tinfoil hat wearers when Clegg is clearly set on the coalition staying in one piece till the bitter end just doesn't stand up to scrutiny, amusing as it would be.

The real "action", if you could really describe it as such, happened across the Commons. Not before time both Liam Byrne and Stephen Twigg were demoted, having been such successes in their shadow posts for work and pensions and education. It was Byrne's idea that the party shouldn't oppose the government's refusal to repay benefits to those illegally sanctioned, disgusting many, while Twigg didn't so much as oppose Michael Gove's education reforms as support them in his own constituency. Twigg's impact was so great that I have absolutely no idea what Labour's education policy is, and if I don't, what hope does the casual observer?

Not that their replacements are necessarily any better. Rachel Reeves takes up Byrne's post, fresh from her Newsnight "humiliation", so we can look forward to more interviews where nothing of interest whatsoever is said. Not that this is the final purge of Blairites the Tories bizarrely want to paint it as; giving Douglas Alexander and Charles Falconer, both Blair fans,  responsibility for the election is hardly the Red Ed Terror. As for bringing Len McCluskey into it yet again, the vast majority of the public will once more say who?

Nor are there 10 lessons to take from the reshuffling.  All it does in reinforce where we were after the party conferences: the leaders are all secure, the Lib Dems are in a world of their own imagining, the Tories are shifting to the right, while Ed Miliband is feeling out policies and imposing his authority fully on the party.  What's really going to be interesting this parliamentary session is how far Osborne is willing to turn the recovery into a mini-boom via Help to Buy, with all the potential implications inflating the housing bubble still further will have.  Nothing that happened today is going to affect that.

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