No Sea Change

8January 2018

Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

Cabinet Reshuffle Doesn't Change Main Players

Her Majesty's Prime Minister began the first full week of the new year with a cabinet reshuffle. Given that the main portfolios remain in the same hands, it's hard to tell quite why she bothered. She appears to be making minor changes, albeit bad ones. A new party chairman doesn't matter much unless an election is coming up, and the PM has no reason to call one. The Northern Ireland Secretary is quitting in order to undergo lung surgery. Moving the justice minister to the Cabinet Office means the UK is looking for a fifth justice secretary in as many years, but apart from that, the government will continue on the same course as before, Brexiting badly.

One can't fault James Brokenshire for leaving the Northern Ireland Office; the man is sick and needs surgery. Unfortunately, the job is of critical importance as the last 14 months of Britain's membership in the EU tick down. The Irish border is an almost insurmountable problem, and having to break in a new boy or girl is going to delay any progress that might otherwise be made. One can't fault the PM for this, but it is a bad break for everyone.

The important news is that the five most significant office holders (Foreign Secretary, Defence, Home Office, Chancellor and Brexit Minister) are not being changed at all. Boris Johnson will continue to be something of an embarrassment on the global stage, but he keeps his job because the PM can't afford to have him turn on her. Amber Rudd at the Home Office is a close ally of Ms. May and is there largely to protect the legacy of the PM who took over at Number 10 having been Home Secretary. David Davis will keep on as the Brexit man because it's too damned late to replace him. If Mr. Brokenshire's departure is harmful to the Brexit process, losing Mr. Davis would be disastrous.

As for Defence, Gavin Wiliamson has only been in the job two months, taking over from Sir Michael Fallon who was caught up in the sexual harassment and abuse tsunami that has his. Moving him would have made Ms. May look like an idiot. That said, he may also be the next Tory party leader, especially if Ms. May fights and loses the next general election.

Finally, there is Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, who campaigned to Remain in the EU. This upsets a great many pro-Brexit MPs and could be a source of rebellion as the negotiations go on. However, given the financial sector's importance to the UK and given the impact Brexit will have on the bankers and brokers, he really couldn't go either.

This is now the team with whom the Prime Minister is going to have to finish Brexit negotiations. It is not a particularly strong team, but given the caliber and number of Conservative MPs, it is possibly the best she could have. The trouble remains that the party she leads still doesn't know quite what it wants from the negotiations nor does anyone else.

© Copyright 2018 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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