Peter Hoskin

Cameron’s frontbench juggling act

Cameron's frontbench juggling act
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So David Cameron offers a hand of friendship to aggrieved Tory backbenchers today, by admitting that his way of dealing with the expenses scandal may have involved some "unfairnesses," and by stressing that he intends to involve a raft of Tory veterans - such as Peter Lilley, Stephen Dorrell and James Arbuthnot - in his government.  

I'm not sure whether the first part of that will placate more than it enflames, but the second half is sensible enough in principle.  Bringing some Tory veterans back into the fold - especially capable ones like Lilley - should bolster a frontbench which is currently light on governmental experience, and which will most likely have to deal with the terrible fallout from the Brown years.

But you do wonder how Cameron's reassurances to his backbenchers will translate to his frontbenchers.  After all, it's no secret that the Tory leader hasn't rated his shadow Cabinet too highly in the past.  And the news that he'd inject some old blood into a Tory government may just encourage doubt and resentment among the current frontbench.

The question Cameron will have to resolve - if only to himself - is whether he's better off leaving any major changes until after the next election, and sticking with a frontbench designed for opposition while in Opposition.  Or whether he's better off putting together a shadow Cabinet now which more closely resembles the Cabinet he hopes to lead in government.  If the former, then it becomes less understandable why Cameron isn't making more extensive use of his current team.