This July we saw what can be seen as the biggest cabinet reshuffle in David Cameron’s tenure as Prime Minister. As many as 12 ministers lost their jobs completely with sweeping changes made across the cabinet office as well as junior ministers too. What stuck out was the resignation of the so called ‘old guard’ as William Hague retired as foreign secretary and Ken Clarke’s resignation came together after 20 years in parliament. What has also stood out is the increase of women members into the cabinet office. But what is most striking about the reshuffle, is the loss of patience towards Michael Gove as the secretary for education, as he is moved to a ‘lesser’ position of chief whip.

In the roller coaster four years we endured with Michael Gove as education minister, what we saw was a confrontational radicalist who was not afraid to push through a policy if he truly believed in it. While some may applaud this, a man who is so determined to push through what he believes is right, many are left disturbed and unhappy with the bridges that he is believed to have started burning. Perhaps the most controversial of Gove’s actions was the decision not to renew the contract of Baroness Sally Morgan as the chair of Ofsted. This is despite the Baroness being much respected and very good at the job she was doing. So why was she let go?

Even though it has not been officially stated, it is widely acknowledged that there was a trend of non-conservative supporters in public bodies being replaced with more loyal party supporters. This has been suggested with her rumoured replacement, David Ross, the head of Carphone Warehouse and owner of around 25 academies around the country, who was considered by Gove. But more importantly, he happens to be a loyal conservative supporter and significant donor.

What Cameron appears to be doing then with the current demotion of Gove, is attempting to build bridges with certain personnel especially teachers in the build up to the next general election which, may be a shrewd bit of strategy by the PM. Gove’s replacement, Nicky Morgan, is part of the doubling of women cabinet ministers. This is a very big promotion for her, but she is highly rated by her colleagues and is seen as a person who can rebuild the bridges burnt by Gove, especially with the teaching unions.

What was also striking about the reshuffle was the standing down of the so-called ‘old guard’ within the conservative party. With William Hague moved from foreign secretary to leader of the commons and Ken Clarke resigning altogether, it looks like there may be a slight breath of fresh air sweeping through this newly-made cabinet. What is most relevant about Mr Hague’s shift is his replacement, Phillip Hammond, a Eurosceptic who is likely to please the more traditional and right-wing contingent of the Conservative party. There was a slight fear among ministers within the conservative party that Mr. Hague was “going native” in the foreign office. Moreover, with a referendum on our participation within the EU due to take place in 2017, if David Cameron doesn’t manage to gain the deal that many feel is necessary to claim some power back from Brussels, then with Phillip Hammond at the helm of the foreign office, our membership could be seriously under threat.

Then there are the other movers in this latest shuffle. Somewhat surprising were the developments to come out of the ministry of justice. With constant cuts in the legal aid budget, it is fair to say that Chris Grayling was not the most popular person, especially with criminal barristers and trainee barristers who claim to be struggling to pay their rent with the constant cuts. Yet Mr. Grayling lives to fight another day, with now former Attorney General Dominic Grieve being the person to go, replaced by barrister Jeremy Wright. In other moves, Phillip Hammond’s replacement as secretary of defence Michael Fallon, is himself no stranger to the front bench of British politics.

Liz Truss has become the new environment secretary, while another woman joins the cabinet as Baroness Tina Stowell is moved to become the new leader of the House of Lords in what is surely a huge step up for her. These two particularly represent a move by the PM to bring more women into frontline politics, which may be a tactic in the lead up to the next election, but more importantly one that looks like it could work. It has long been coming to see more women involved in the cabinet, and with the emergence of Teresa May in the home office and now this, it looks like if the Tories are re-elected, who knows, maybe as many as half the cabinet could be women.


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