Ministers do not make any impact on policy and are reshuffled for purely cosmetic reasons, the country’s top civil servant has admitted.
Sir Jeremy Heywood, the cabinet secretary, told MPs on Thursday that which politician had what job in government did not “make that much of a difference” as everything was run by David Cameron and Nick Clegg.
He told a Commons committee that shuffling the pack of ministers did “make a difference to how policy is presented” but had little impact on the actual business of government.
Sir Jeremy did concede that the personality of individual ministers do “change things around the edges”, but that was all given the comprehensive coalition programme for government.
“Any minster can come in and decide they want to add to the existing policies some new areas and new priorities,” he said.
He added: “The role of reshuffles on policy can be exaggerated.”
David Cameron conducted his first major reshuffle in September last year – in which numerous MPs were either promoted to, or demoted from, government.
Heywood said reshuffles were mostly as a way for the Cameron to control his parliamentary party. Prime ministers frequently by dangle job offers in front of potentially rebellious MPs in order to keep them in check.
Tory MP Eleanor Laing told Heywood her impression of reshuffle was they were like an Agatha Christie novel. “You start with one murder and then there is another and another consequent upon that,” she said.