We shall not be moved: Theresa May's shambolic reshuffle | John Crace

John Crace
Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson won’t budge. Photograph: Peter Nicholls/Reuters

Monday
With the best part of two weeks to prepare for her reshuffle, you’d have expected this was at least one thing Theresa May could get right. Apparently not. The first sign that things weren’t running smoothly came when someone from Conservative central office tweeted to say that Chris Grayling had been appointed as the new party chairman. He hadn’t and within minutes the tweet was deleted. Then she invited Jeremy Hunt to No 10 to tell him she was moving him from the Department of Health. Only she had forgotten to check in advance to see if he would go quietly. He wouldn’t, so there followed an embarrassing stand-off, at the end of which she not only kept Hunt in health but gave him an extra title. Much the same thing happened with Justine Greening, who wasn’t willing to be shifted sideways and chose to leave government instead. The incompetence continued with several junior ministers only finding out they had been sacked when they were phoned by members of the press to say their Wikipedia pages had been updated by someone at CCHQ.

Start the year as you mean to go on.

Tuesday
Richard Branson has responded to attacks on him in the Daily Mail by refusing to sell the newspaper on his Virgin trains. In response, many people have accused him of an act of censorship. I can’t really see the problem. Given that it’s his train, he’s entitled to sell what he wants on it. He’s not obliged to be a model of free speech. What annoys me far more is the performance of his trains themselves. Just before Christmas, I bought a ticket to Liverpool that stated: “Off-peak: any route permitted.” The train I wanted to take was at 3.10 in the afternoon, so I thought I was sorted. Not so. When I got to the barrier I was told my ticket was not valid. “Why not?” I asked. “Because this particular train doesn’t count as an off-peak service,” the inspector replied. As there were no signs anywhere in the station to this effect, I then asked how I was supposed to have known this. The bloke shrugged. I could either get a later train or pay an extra £100. Since I would have missed my event by kicking my heels, I forked out. Not surprisingly, the train was practically empty.

Wednesday
Fed up with answering difficult questions such as: “Why is the country in such a mess?” the Thai prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, has taken to getting a cardboard cut-out of himself to stand in for him at press conferences. While hardly in the best democratic traditions, it does at least have a veneer of honesty by making no bones about his unwillingness to engage with political debate. There are times, while watching Theresa May twist herself into knots in her desperation not to give a straight answer to anything at prime minister’s questions, that I think we’d actually be better off with a cardboard cut-out. At least that way the whole ordeal wouldn’t be dragged out to an excruciating 45 minutes of non-disclosure. When asked today about the winter crisis in the NHS, the best she could come up with was everything was bound to be worse in Wales and the fact that so many acute patients were being treated in ambulances was a sign of just how many ambulances we had.

Thursday
I hate January. My mood is low and my anxiety levels are high. Even the most mundane tasks that I normally manage without a second thought at other times of year, now seem overwhelming. Even getting out of bed can be a struggle. I muddle on through a combination of medication, therapy, going to the gym, the kindness of friends and family and bizarre coping mechanisms. Like counting the number of dogs I see on my walk through the park on my way to work. The more dogs I see, the better the day is going to be. The bad news is that today I only saw one. Sometimes I think it would help if I could join in the rituals of personal renewal that so many others do by putting myself through a dry January. The problem with this is that I gave up drugs and alcohol more than 30 years ago and knocked the cigarettes on the head not long after that. So there’s sod all left for me to give up. Which means that I’m probably in about as good shape as I will ever be. A frightening thought.

Friday
According to new research commissioned by Mills & Boon, we Brits are increasingly confused by what should be considered romantic. All of us are apparently terrified by doing something that could be interpreted as cheesy; we would rather do nothing at all. Though, if push comes to shove, the research suggests men will nip to the garage to buy a bunch of flowers or a box of chocolates while women prefer to have a cuddle or go for a walk. I’m not sure this confusion is necessarily a new phenomenon, though. Back in 1974, I was in a state of panic after I invited my first real girlfriend out on a proper date, rather than for just a drink in the pub. I really didn’t have a clue what to do, where to go or how to behave. In the end, I settled for taking her out for a meal in McDonald’s on the grounds it was the only place where I was confident I could afford everything on the menu. Strangely, she didn’t seem to mind. Or at least she was too polite to say if she did.

Digested week digested: The non-reshuffle reshuffle

Picture of the week

Theresa May: ‘I’m looking for a policy.’ Michael Gove: ‘And I’m looking to be the prime minister.’ Photograph: Dan Kitwood/PA