Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

David Cameron’s cosmetic exercise bemuses the Tories

Today’s reshuffle has been largely about cosmetic improvements to the Conservative party — not just through the promotion of female MPs, but also by neutralising certain policy areas such as education and planning reform that had antagonised some groups. But an important element in any changing of the guard is party management, and not just managing cross sacked ministers. So how has the Conservative party reacted to today’s events?

Naturally, all Tory MPs are as startled as everyone else by Michael Gove’s departure. But it does make sense to them. Ministerial colleagues had grown increasingly frustrated that Gove, who polls very badly with the general public, was having fights and intervening on issues that either didn’t affect him or were what Lynton Crosby would consider ‘barnacles’. Number 10 may be insisting that this wasn’t a demotion, and it certainly wasn’t a vote of no confidence in Gove’s policies, but it is being seen as a demotion in the Tory party. Some are a little bit nervous that being one of the four broadcast ministers means the former Education Secretary will have even more opportunity to stir things up on the airwaves. But, if he has an official role as part of the Tory TV campaign machine, then his appearances and interventions will be better controlled. And while promoting Liz Truss would have made a great deal more sense, no-one is disputing Nicky Morgan’s calm, collected ability as a minister. Indeed, though the women appointed to Cabinet had more obvious positions than the ones they now occupy, it is difficult to argue that they haven’t earned their promotions: Truss, Morgan and Tina Stowell are all seriously impressive.

But the dust is still settling over whether there has been adequate compensation for Owen Paterson’s departure.

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