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Mehdi Hasan

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Cameron's Solution to Our Economic Mess? Sack the Welsh Secretary

Posted: 04/09/2012 18:03

Check out these news headlines from the past few days:

"Get some backbone' Osborne urged as CBI and BCC slash growth forecasts"

"No Olympic Boost for UK Retail Sales"

"David Davis Says Osborne's Growth Record Is 'Terrible' And 'Disastrous'"

"Surprise contraction in UK construction"

"Young and low-skilled workers hit hardest as 'underemployment' rises"

The UK economy, lest we forget, is depressed. Growth has disappeared; confidence continues to plummet.

Yet, this morning, David Cameron carried out the first "major" cabinet reshuffle of his premiership and sacked... wait for it... not a single member of the government's economics team. Despite presiding over the country's first double-dip recession since 1975, chancellor George Osborne - who was booed by members of the public at the Paralympics last night - chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander and business secretary Vince Cable all kept their jobs. The prime minister did try to move Iain Duncan Smith from the work and pensions brief but the latter refused to budge from his department - and Cameron backed down.

This is bizarre. Why, in the midst of all this economic doom and gloom, and with no sign of a growth plan on the horizon, would you sack the leader of the Commons (who he?) and the secretary of state for Wales (who she?) but leave your discredited Treasury team untouched?

Voters, of course, don't care about reshuffles. Few could distinguish between, say, Maria Miller and Caroline Spelman. They do, however, care about jobs and growth, about living standards and, yes, public services.

The PM's refusal to combine this much-awaited reshuffle of his cabinet with a much-needed rethink of his failing fiscal policies speaks volumes about how ideologically wedded he is to his reckless public spending cuts. It also allows the opposition to gleefully spin his modest frontbench shake-up - only three cabinet ministers were asked to return to the backbenches - as "the no-change reshuffle".

Meanwhile, Tory retoxification continues apace: Cameron capitulated to his party's right-wing, Eurosceptic, 'hang 'em and flog 'em' tendency by sacking One-Nation Conservatives such as Ken Clarke, Sayeeda Warsi and George Young and promoting ardent Thatcherites such as Chris Grayling, Owen Paterson and Theresa Villiers. He failed to increase the number of women around the cabinet table - male ministers continue to outnumber their female counterparts by a ratio of five to one - and appointed a climate change sceptic, former Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson, as his environment secretary. So much for "hugging huskies" and having the "greenest government ever".

I suspect the prime minister will come to regret this reshuffle. As is so often the case, the Tory leader has proved himself to be all tactics, no strategy. He is also deeply out of touch with public opinion. Let me finish this post with another news headline from the past few weeks:

"Voters tell No 10 to keep Clarke - and fire Osborne ahead of next month's Cabinet reshuffle"

So what did our canny prime minister do? The exact opposite.

 

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