Alex Massie Alex Massie

Small Reshuffle in Britain; Not Many Dead

First things first: a reshuffle in which only one cabinet minister is sacked redeployed is a reshuffle in name only. It means the action – if you can call it that – is confined to the replacement of ministers of whom most of you have never heard with other MPs of whom you are most likely equally ignorant.

A day of low drama in Westminster then.

Secondly, ejecting Michael Moore from the Scotland Office is not, I think, a reflection on his performance. If he was an accidental Secretary of State whose elevation to the cabinet was the result of David Laws’ disgrace, Moore still carried out his duties diligently – a very Michael Moore word, by the way – and without fuss or drama.

Alistair Carmichael will, we are told, bring a more combative approach to the Scotland Office. Well, we shall see. But he is still a Scottish Liberal Democrat. They don’t do Rottweiler. His promotion, I fancy, owes much to Nick Clegg’s desire to reward Carmichael’s years of service in the thankless task of persuading Lib Dem backbenchers to vote in favour of policies pursued by a government formed, in part, by the Liberal Democrats. This has been harder than you might think and tougher than it should have been.

And since Clegg, Vince Cable and Danny Alexander cannot be moved that meant poor old Michael Moore was for the chop. So be it. Nonetheless, it is worth observing that being eminently and obviously reasonable helped Moore be a quietly successful Scottish Secretary. He acted as a fire blanket, suffocating nationalist grievance. The independence referendum is, at least in part, a contest in which both sides are determined to seem more reasonable than the other. Moore was rather good at that.

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