How to tweak the cabinet

Written by Total Politics has a free weekly Friday email bulletin. Follow this link to register. on 20 April 2011 in Diary
Caroline Spelman is most likely to be shuffled out of the cabinet, but Grant Shapps and Paddy Ashdown could also be headed for the frontbench in the near future

ConservativeHome have called for Ken Clarke to be shuffled, and moved to Leader of the House. I firmly disagree with them, but it got me thinking about possible coalition ministerial tweaks.

The most likely Secretary of State to go is surely Caroline Spelman. The mishandling of the public forests sell-off, a case of a bad policy being even more badly communicated, could well cost her a place at the top table. Grant Shapps is increasingly popular and prominent, and could be given a chance to step up a level. 

The pressure on Andrew Lansley could also prove to be too much fairly soon. Liam Fox is a fairly obvious replacement, having shadowed the role for a time in opposition, but current International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell could also be senior enough to take over. William Hague is fairly untouchable, particularly with the uncertainty in Libya, but don’t be surprised if come 2012/2013 Michael Gove is the Foreign Secretary.

Cameron would though be wise to bring Paddy Ashdown into the Ministry of Defence. He would be an important and vastly experienced voice in a difficult time. Coalition sensitivities may mean that the Lib Dems may have to lose someone from another department, perhaps Norman Baker from Transport, but surely the Conservatives would see the value of having Lord Ashdown on board.

David Davis remains an important figure within the Conservatives. Returning him to government would both stop him acting as a one-man opposition, and appease the right of the Conservatives. The good alliance he has with the Lib Dems on civil liberties could be best utilised in the Home Office.

A Department with no Lib Dem in is Culture Media and Sport. While the Hunt/Vaizey axis is unlikely to be broken, Lib Dem Don Foster’s vast knowledge of the portfolio could be beneficial to the department in the lead up to the Olympics, with one of Hugh Robertson or John Penrose making way (they could replace the Grant Shapps).

Then there is David Laws, a man who both parties are desperate to see return to the frontbench. While it can’t happen any time soon, he still has to be dealt with by the Parliamentary Standards Committee, his intellect and expertise clearly made him the right man to be Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Danny Alexander should be shifted to the Cabinet office, working even more closely with Francis Maude and Oliver Letwin in developing the coalition’s future programme, with Laws returning to the job he held for 16 days when it is possible.

David Cameron has thus far shown no indication of copying Tony Blair and making the cabinet reshuffle an annual event. The likelihood is that he won’t conduct a big reshuffle until sometime in 2012, but these few tweaks could give some new perspectives to a government whose honeymoon is well and truly over.

Charlotte Henry normally blogs at

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