Word reaches Mr Steerpike that Times columnist Danny Finkelstein played a decisive role in the reshuffle. As is widely known, Danny speaks to George Osborne regularly and those inside Whitehall know that what he says (or writes) today you can normally expect Osborne to say or do tomorrow. So when he started explaining to Newsnight viewers the rationale for moving Iain Duncan Smith out of the DWP it became clear what Downing St was thinking. IDS, said the Fink,
“has reached the point where he has tried to introduced the reforms and it might be a different person you want to implement the reforms. So you would change Welfare Secretary at this point without necessarily changing the policies.”
Would you now? This enraged those around IDS, who said that their boss was being nudged out of the DWP by the Treasury on live television. This morning, Downing Street was informed that IDS was staying put.
An ordinary journalist could be seen to be flying a kite. But Danny Finkelstein was named by David Cameron as one of the six journalists whom he sees “so frequently” that he could not be expected to list the meetings, on account of their sheer volume. So his punditry might have rather undercut Cameron’s attempt to pull off this move as tactfully as possible. One Downing Street insider describes Finkelstein’s intervention as ‘a monumental cock up’.
UPDATE: Danny pleads innocent. He has posted the following on this post’s comment thread:
‘All very interesting except A) I have never had a conversation with either ‘George Osborne or David Cameron about Iain Duncan Smith’s position at any point and b) Nick Robinson had just said on the news, which i watched in the Green Room that Iain might be moved. I was commenting on that.