Although much reshuffle reportage has focused on the chancellor’s resignation and the revenge sackings of a number of ministers, other developments do not augur well given that our prime minister does all he can to avoid scrutiny.
There should be widespread alarm that the MP appointed to the most senior legal post within government has expressed a desire to “take back control” from the judiciary, especially so in the light of Boris Johnson’s unlawful prorogation and the subsequent dark mutterings about treachery by judges and their interference in the conduct of government policy (Braverman wins favour with vow to ‘take back control’ from judiciary, 14 February).
We must hope that opposition parties will use the half-term break to good effect to devise a joint strategy to disrupt and obstruct the drive towards removing accountability and scrutiny – oh, and when will the Russia report that Johnson has suppressed be published?
• In the past 12 months the Department for International Development has had four secretaries of state, and DfID now has seven joint ministers. Now more than ever we need policy coherence and an agenda that remains poverty- and people-focused.
If we do not achieve this, the government risks undoing the decades’ worth of work that the UK has done to tackle the drivers of poverty, climate change and conflict. DfID needs stability so it can get on with the job of ensuring that the world’s most vulnerable people get the support they need. A healthier, more sustainable and more equal planet is in all of our best interests.
CEO, Bond – the UK network for NGOs
• In 27BC, Octavian took over a political system whose unwritten constitution had been all but broken by abuses and shenanigans that showed contempt for the essential spirit that had glued it together. In speciously claiming to be the restorer of the old ways and a true representative of the populace, he made a number of dramatic power grabs that centralised all authority in a new imperial palace.
Plus ça change, it seems. Perhaps today’s political commentators should start paying a little more attention to their classics.
• Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by Julian Smith’s sacking. After all, he only played a leading role in restoring the Stormont institutions, was held in high regard by most parties in Northern Ireland and, as you report, “was regarded as a very good secretary of state with a grip on complex problems”. Clearly not the sort of person Johnson would want in his cabinet when the minor issues of leaving the EU and Northern Ireland’s future status are yet to be resolved.
Oldham, Greater Manchester
• Now that our country’s leader has shown such steely resolve in firing underperforming ministers, shouldn’t Mr Cummings be looking at the performance of Mr Johnson? Described as the worst foreign secretary since Edward Grey, he jumped last time before being pushed, but our leader should allow him no graceful exit this time. That little list needs to be a little bigger.
• The appointment of George Eustice as environment secretary may not be good news. If you check back on what the then farming minister said just before the referendum, you’ll find he was in favour of tearing up all EU environmental directives and starting out on something more flexible to suit farmers (he is a farmer himself, of course). At the time, Boris Johnson’s father spoke out against him.
• Slightly less than 10% of the new cabinet have a science degree. One is Alok Sharma, who did physics in the 1980s but never worked in science. The other is Thérèse Coffey (DWP) who has a PhD in chemistry. Anne-Marie Trevelyan read maths. A couple did not attend university and the rest did humanities. And that’s it, as we confront the humanity’s biggest ever science challenge.
We worry about the gender, race and private/state-school balance. This is a far greater problem.
• I agree with Polly Toynbee that the removal of Sajid Javid reveals Boris Johnson’s ruthless craving for absolute power (Journal, 14 February). But the replacement of Javid by the talented Rishi Sunak (and the promotion of Alok Sharma to business and energy secretary) emphasises that, although Labour preaches equal opportunity, bizarrely it is the Tories who have produced two women PMs and readily promote ethnic minorities to positions of real power. Whoever wins the Labour leadership must ensure their actions speak louder than their words.
• Good leaders keep their friends close and their enemies closer. As Polly Toynbee points out by describing their cabinet appointees as “pipsqueaks and placemen”, Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings have ignored this and may live to regret their lack of courage. They’d do well to remember Geoffrey Howe.
• Polly Toynbee’s effective onslaught on “the most under-brained, third-rate cabinet in living memory” does seem to suggest that Michael Gove might be the one independent-minded minister capable of challenging the absolute power. But remember, it was Gove who created the svengali who ruined our education system and is now engaged in ruining our state.
• Poetic justice for Sajid Javid, who, since the referendum, has prioritised his own career advancement over the national interest. A month before the referendum, Javid warned that Brexit would mean a lost decade for British business. Yet to maintain his position as chancellor, he has been trumpeting a policy of total rupture from the EU that he knows will be ruinous. Good riddance.
• Sajid Javid constructively dismissed before giving his first budget! Don’t be surprised if our new prime minister makes Dilyn the dog a consul in the near future.
East Boldon, Tyne and Wear
• Loyalty to his team! Sajid Javid has raised the standing of politicians in my eyes – and, I expect, in those of many more. Much needed.
• Now that the Saj has found a principle, perhaps he could explain what it is to Baroness Nicky Morgan.
• I see the reshuffle was the usual Cummings and goings.
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