Michael Gove is the new Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, Downing Street has just announced. Chris Grayling will move to become Leader of the House. Number 10 is also confirming that, as David Cameron promised during the election campaign, Nicky Morgan will continue as Education Secretary.
Becoming Justice Secretary marks a return to Gove running a big department after his service as chief whip in the run up to the general election. I suspect that there will be two things that Gove concentrates on. First, sorting out Britain’s relationship with the ECHR. Grayling had already committed the Tories to withdrawing from the Convention if parliament and courts here could not veto a judgement from the European Court of Human Rights applying in this country. Gove, a long-time sceptic of this activist court, will be keen to crack on with this. The second thing will be to be try and reduce both the prison population and the crime rate, something which is patently a good thing and — importantly — saves money. They’ve managed to achieve this in Texas by treating drug addictions in prisons which has helped reduce recidivism. Gove, who is trusted on the right and has the intellectual force to make an argument, will be able to sell this policy without sounding ‘soft on crime’.
I suspect we’ll see some carping from lawyers about Gove not being a lawyer by training himself. Personally, I’ve always found this a bizarre argument: we don’t expect the Health Secretary to be a doctor. Grayling moves from Justice to take over William Hague’s old job as Leader of the House. I expect that this will lead to Grayling being heavily involved in the whole debate over English votes for English laws, which he has strong views on.
That Nicky Morgan is staying as Education Secretary is no surprise, Cameron committed to keeping her there during the general election campaign if the Tories won a majority.
Update: BBC are also saying that Mark Harper is the new chief whip. This is a smart appointment, Harper is popular in the parliamentary party and a good listener. He will also be able to remind colleagues in trouble of the merits of a quick resignation, he quit as immigration minister over his cleaner’s visa in February last year before the story had broken. His swift, dignified departure meant that he could return to the government in that summer’s reshuffle.