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Cabinet Reshuffle: Paterson and Gove Sackings Are Long Overdue

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So we've been through the latest Night of the Long Knives, and files are being packed, chairs moved around. It's time to take initial stock of the "look" of this government for its final few months.

It certainly is going to look different - fewer ties, more scarves. The increased presence of women is welcome, and long-overdue, but the new female Secretaries and Ministers will barely have time to find their way around their departments before the government goes into full election mode, so the claim of tokenism can certainly be laid at prime minister David Cameron's door.

Perhaps in fact it is desperation, given the growing gender gap in voters prepared to consider voting Tory. Changing the wardrobe is unlikely to change that: more and more women are seeing how the government's policies are impacting heavily on them, particularly in the cuts to benefits and services on which women rely.

There is, however, cause for celebration in two of the sackings.

The fact that Britain no longer has an environment secretary who, even before he was appointed, was known to be denier of the reality of climate change removes an international embarrassment.

The removal of a truly dreadful secretary of state - who in the badger cull demonstrated his broader contempt or total failure to understand scientific evidence - is something to celebrate.
Whatever Liz Truss turns out to be like as environment secretary she'll struggle to do a worse job. The fact she's a former Shell employee doesn't inspire confidence, but one shouldn't pre-judge.

The departure of education secretary Michael Gove is also cause for celebration. Again, his replacement is largely an unknown quality, her vote against gay marriage a cause for concern, but there's an opportunity here for the government to draw a line under a truly awful period for English schools.

The clearly failed, and unpopular, policy of free schools could be quietly ended, and teachers again given a chance to teach rather than be swamped under a sea of data collection.

That pretty well covers the good news, such as it is.

What Cameron has done - surprising really, given that Ukip are sliding in the polls, is go chasing after Ukip voters with a heavy swerve to the right. Most of the remaining relative moderates - people like Ken Clarke, who deserves congratulations for going out swinging on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme with a defence of human rights - have gone.

We've got what Iain Dale has described as the most Eurosceptic foreign secretary in history, hardly the figure who might build bridges with Europe if Cameron really hopes the see the changes he wants there.

This isn't a government to go into the polls seeking the middle ground, but rather one where it seems Cameron is content to sink into opposition while clinging to his core/Ukip vote, or, at most, to face another term of Coalition with the remaining right-wing Lib Dems.

It is a reminder of how our political class, instead of moving closer to the people they are meant to represent (remember that even a majority of Tory voters want the railways renationalised, yet only the Green Party is going to go into the next election with that as policy), is instead moving closer and closer to the right-wing media tycoons and millionaire bankers who have far too strong a grip on our political direction.

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