With a new year comes a new cabinet… or so we thought. With Theresa May promising a cabinet that will be ‘Building a Britain fit for the future’, expectations were high. Would we get a diverse cabinet representative of society as it is today? Would we see the back of the worst Health Secretary in history? Would there be any shock promotions? Well, the truth is… no.
The first major news of the day came from the Northern Ireland office, as Secretary James Brokenshire announced his resignation due to ill health. An unavoidable event of course. Then, towards 11am, news broke on Twitter that the Conservative Party website had crashed, with Robert Colville tweeting that it was down to a failure to upgrade to HTTPS. How embarrassing for them…
But that was only to be the beginning of a disastrous day for the crippled PM, as at quarter to 1, Chris Grayling was confirmed by CCHQ’s twitter account as the new Chairman of the party. But then a minute later the tweet was deleted, not before it was seen by thousands of twitter users, and shared by many Tory MP’s. So what was going on people wondered? Well it turns out, he wasn’t the new party chairman after all. It was a calamitous error by the party’s HQ. Eventually, Brandon Lewis was confirmed as party chairman, with James Cleverly, an MP only elected back in 2015, making the rapid jump to deputy chairman. Not the best start to the day which was meant to stabilise the government and help out Theresa May…
David Lidington was later confirmed as Minister for the Cabinet Office, replacing the disgraced Damian Green, and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in a flawless announcement, while Amber Rudd was confirmed to be remaining in her post as Home Secretary. Philip Hammond also remains in his post as chancellor in what may come as a surprise to some following a disastrous year for him. No surprise however was the decision to keep David Davis as Brexit secretary.
Sadly, the news then came that Boris Johnson, our clown-like foreign secretary, had kept his job. Perhaps due to the weakness of May, as its clear she probably couldn’t sack him without losing her job. Nevertheless, this was an unpopular decision.
But arguably the biggest news of the day soon came, as Jeremy Hunt came out of Downing Street, many hoped he would have been moved. And indeed, Theresa May planned to do so. Lining up the role of Business secretary for arguably the most hated man in British politics, many were left thinking that perhaps we’d seen the back of this disgrace for a Health Secretary. Alas, this was not to be the case, because he managed to ‘persuade’ the PM to keep him in the position. In other words, he flat out refused to leave the Health office, and being the weak and incompetent leader she is, she backed down, and not only kept him in the post, but actually extended his remit to include Social Care. With the NHS in its worst crisis ever, and social care falling apart, having this disgraceful man in charge of them for the foreseeable future sends shivers down my spine.
Justine Greening, a Tory Moderniser and strict remainer, was later asked to move from education, her ‘dream job’, to the DWP. An unattractive move to be sure. And what did she do? She flat out refused and quit, stating that ‘social mobility is more important than a ministerial career’. Fair play to one of the only half decent Tories, who now has the chance to oppose the government on Heathrow’s expansion and on Brexit from the backbenches. A popular figure amongst the party’s more centrist members, she will be missed.
So that meant Education, and DWP were both unfilled positions. The former was filled simply by Damian Hinds, but then the announcement for DWP came, and boy was it a big one. A woman once called the a ‘stain on inhumanity’ by John McDonnell (admittedly not a nice thing to say at all), had been appointed as Secretary for Work and Pensions. Yes it could only be… Esther McVeigh, the MP for Tatton (which happens to be one of the nearest constituencies to my constituency of Macclesfield). The woman renowned for cutting benefits for the disabled, closing Remploy, being ousted from her seat Wirral West in 2015, and for saying quotes such as ‘bodies heal’ when talking about how some people shouldn’t be claiming disability benefits, and saying that food banks were good as people were ‘maximising economic opportunities’. This is the woman that Theresa May has toxified the DWP with. If you thought Iain Duncan Smith was bad, then believe me, he hasn’t got anything on the woman dubbed by many as ‘McVile’.
This was the day that was meant to help Theresa May gain back some credibility. And yet it has done the complete opposite. The majority of new appointments to said cabinet are white, male and educated at either Grammar Schools or private schools. Diversity? That’s the complete opposite. Its typical Tory. In many ways, Hunt staying in charge of health benefits Theresa May, as it means that he can continue dismantling the NHS and continue to privatise it. After all, recently we found out that despite paying no corporation tax in the UK, Virgin Care has won over £1 Billion worth of NHS contracts in just one year. The mainstream media have managed to keep this reasonably quiet, but this demonstrates the utter contempt the Tories have for our vital public health services.
This truly was a reshuffle kerfuffle, and is the latest in a long line of scandals and disasters to hit this government. If Labour can (finally) capitalise on these failings, then maybe. Just maybe, this government will collapse and we can finally create a country that works for the many, not the few.