The Spectator's Notes

The Spectator's Notes: this is the worst reshuffle since 1989

Cameron has punished the ministers who were brave and active, and target-bombed his party’s natural supporters

19 July 2014

9:00 AM

19 July 2014

9:00 AM

This must be the worst reshuffle since Mrs Thatcher demoted Geoffrey Howe in 1989. Unlike that one, its errors are unforced. This year, David Cameron had established a surprisingly strong position as the leader whose unpopular but necessary policies were starting to work. He and his team seemed steadier and more able than their opponents. Now he has thrown that away with changes so large that he looks as if he disrespects what he has achieved. He has singled out for punishment those ministers who were brave and active — most notably Michael Gove and Owen Paterson, demoting the first and sacking the second. Thus he emboldens all those pressure groups who hate the Tories and sends out a message that no one who wants a ministerial career should have a serious interest in his or her subject. He has also target-bombed his party’s natural supporters — rural voters, Eurosceptics, non-greens and people who are out of sympathy with his metropolitan preoccupations. He has dismissed the only two cabinet ministers (Paterson and the Welsh Secretary, David Jones) who voted against single-sex marriage. By getting rid of Paterson, in particular, he has turned his strongest cabinet bulwark against Ukip into a powerful enemy. Even his promotion of women, itself a welcome trend, is hypocritical, because no women have got nearer the beating heart (if one can apply that metaphor to such cynics) of this government. The dreary frivolity of it all has really surprised me.

It is one of the strangest things about human nature that if something really disgusts us, we lose our sense of justice. We so want to punish the wrong that we don’t care whom we punish. A friend of mine was once on a jury, and met a juror from another case having coffee in the Old Bailey. A horrible child sex abuse case was going on somewhere else in the building. The juror said to my friend: ‘If I were on that jury, when that defence counsel came on, I’d be deaf as a beetle.’ And at the same time as we shut our ears to the need to prove guilt, we open them much too uncritically to those who love hurling accusations. There are now two new inquiries, and the resignation of the chairman of one of them before it has even started, but I am still waiting to hear any piece of actual evidence of a conspiracy to cover up paedophilia in the 1980s. People who usually despise MPs have decided to take very seriously the late, not-at-all serious Geoffrey Dickens MP, who made accusations about which no one seems to know much. In 1918, an MP called Noel Pemberton-Billing ‘revealed’ that the ‘Unseen Hand’ of German power in Britain had collected a Black Book of 47,000 British sexual perverts, including child abusers, many of them in powerful positions. They were being blackmailed, he said, by the German secret service. (The Unseen Hand fantasy, by the way, was supported by the Times, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and the famous fraudster Horatio Bottomley.) German ‘Jew-agents’ also sent loose women to give venereal disease to British soldiers. The truly shocking thing about this rubbish was that it was believed. The actress Maud Allan brought a libel action against Pemberton-Billing after he had accused her of lascivious and traitorous performances in an article called ‘The Cult of the Clitoris’. She lost, after evidence was given about the Black Book’s backing for her show. Later, Billing’s star witness admitted that the whole thing was a pack of lies. Credulity about evil can itself be evil.


By the time most readers see this, the House of Lords will have formed a view about Assisted Dying. Some Anglican bishops have got wonderfully on-the-one-hand/on-the-other about it. They seem to want dying assisted, but only a little bit. The Bishop of Carlisle feels that judges, rather than doctors, should decide whether someone has the right to be helped to take his or her own life. Thus do the most enlightened persons inadvertently advocate the return of the death penalty. I hope that when the bishop’s judges perform this task, they will be made to wear the traditional black cap.

If I were in the House of Lords, I would bring in an Assisted Living Bill. It would make it compulsory for all those seeking an abortion to entertain an offer for their baby from approved prospective adoptive parents. No money would be paid. Rather, the abortion-seeking mother — or couple — would have to meet the baby-seekers at least twice and be asked to consider a formal offer, which would include evidence of how the future child would be provided for. Forced to think of the foetus as a living person in this way, many of those exercising the ‘right to choose’ might, after all, choose life.

In last week’s Notes, I mentioned how the Marquis of Normanby leads a double life as the distinguished writer, Constantine Phipps. I recently experienced another example of posh protective camouflage. Emma Willis, who makes shirts in Jermyn Street, invited me to a reception for her wonderful charity, Style for Soldiers. After I had accepted, she emailed to ask if I wanted a chauffeur to the party. I replied that it was very kind but I thought it ridiculous that a charity should provide its guests with drivers: I could find my own way to the Ritz. Emma explained that the limousine company, Capstar Chauffeurs, was itself a good cause. It is staffed largely by injured ex-servicemen, and it wants attention for its excellent work. So I agreed. I was picked up from Hampstead, where I was interviewing someone, by Charlie, the young boss of the company. He was very smart, ex-Blues and Royals (though not himself injured), and politely called me ‘Sir’ at all times. He drove very well. In the course of conversation, I gradually realised that he was the Marquis of Bowmont, heir to the Duke of Roxburgh, Floors Castle and large bits of the Scottish borders. Nowadays, only the aristocracy are deferential. It is touching.

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  • tjamesjones

    how can we know if it’s a bad reshuffle? I think we’ll know in 12 months time, covering both the last year of this parliament and the next election.

    • Shenandoah

      A weak response from you, uncharacteristically. You know it’s a bad move if the strong torchbearers of the Enlightenment are booted out and the warmed-over sorbet-pinkos are ushered in. Cameron is a decent man but the West is at a crossroads and he is not the man for the time. I find myself trying not to feel disdain for him.

  • Terry Field

    This looks lie a precursor to the Prime Minister failing top gain changes in Europe, and then his campaigning to leave the EU in 2017. All for the health of the conservative party.
    Putting party before country.
    I an a Tory, but pro-European, and am horrified at this – I am almost inclined to vote Labour to avoid this catastrophe for Britain.

  • dado_trunking

    Oh dear oh dear – Cameron targeted those pathological underperformers that were found pathologically underperforming. Ergo Gove and Paterson had to go. Just speak to anyone in education (not just NUT groupies) to verify the statement, just speak to anyone in the countryside (not just the CLA Game Fair lot) and gain enlightenment.
    But let us all be mindful now that the chap delivering the words above is also the chap who made Mugabe a publicly acceptable alternative.

  • Amir

    Check this article about Michael Gove’s demotion:

    http://www.casualpolitics.co.uk/2014/07/aftermath-of-goves-demotion/

  • Shenandoah

    The sad irony, Mr Moore, is that in ‘choosing life’ one also and at the same time chooses death for the child — for whatever is born will have to die. There is no avoiding the death, it’s just a question of when it comes and how long we have been fearing it or suffering as it happens.

    • AsYouSay

      A life well lived is one that embraces its own death. And a death well embraced is one that leads to eternal life.

      • Shenandoah

        Nah. It leads to oblivion.

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      Are you passing through any of these problems,

      DO YOU NEED YOUR EX BACK VERY FAST

      DON YOU WANT YOUR LOVER TO LOVE YOU AS NEVER LIKE BEFORE

      ARE YOU SUFFERING FROM A LONG TIME SICKNESS

      ARE YOU FACING FINANCIAL PROBLEMS

      ARE YOU SEEKING FOR A GOOD JOB

      DO YOU WANT TO BECOME A HOUSE OWNER

      ARE YOU LOOKING FOR A FIRST CLASS GRADE

      DO YOU WANT TO COME OUT FIRST IN YOUR EXAMS

      ARE YOU A STAR AND YOU WANT TO BE SO POPULAR TO THE WHOLE WORLD

      DO YOU WANT TO BE RICH

      DO YOU WANT YOUR BUSINESS TO KEEP MOVING

      DO YOU HAVE A COMPANY OF ANY KIND AND YOU WANT IT TO EXPAND

      DO YOU WANT YOUR HUSBAND OR WIFE TO KEEP TO YOUR WORLD

      ARE YOU FACING ANY MARITAL PROBLEMS

      ARE YOU FINDING IT DIFFICULT TO GET PREGNANT FOR YOUR HUSBAND

      ARE YOU EXPERIENCING MISCARRIAGES ANY TIME YOU TAKE IN

      DO YOU WANT TO COMPETE IN ANY LOTTERY GAME

      ARE YOU FACING HARDSHIP

      HAVE YOU BEEN THREATENED BY SOMEONE

      DO YOU WANT TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN ANY THING YOU LAY YOUR HANDS ON

      IS YOUR SON OR DAUGHTER BEHAVING STRANGELY

      ARE YOU FACING WITCH CRAFT MANIPULATIONS

      DO YOU WANT TO CAST A STRONG LOVE SPELL ON YOUR GIRL OR BOY FRIEND

      DO YOU NEED MAGIC POWERS TO DO ANY THING YOU WANT

      ARE YOU FINDING IT DIFFICULT TO CHOOSE A LIFE PARTNER

      DO YOU WANT YOUR PARENTS TO BE PROUD OF YOU

      ARE YOU EXPERIENCING FAILURE AND DISAPPOINTMENT IN ANY THING YOU DO.(ETC)

      IF you are in any condition like this,or you have any problem related to “bringing your ex back. So thanks to Dr Brave for bringing back my wife,and brought great joy to my family once again.{bravespellcaster@gmail.com} , Thanks.,,,,

  • Thanks to Dr Brave for bringing back my wife,and brought great joy to my family?

    Hello to every one out here, am here to share the unexpected miracle that happened to me three days ago, My name is Jeffrey Dowling,i live in TEXAS,USA.and I`m happily married to a lovely and caring wife,with two kids A very big problem occurred in my family seven months ago,between me and my wife so terrible that she took the case to court for a divorce she said that she never wanted to stay with me again,and that she did not love me anymore So she packed out of my house and made me and my children passed through severe pain. I tried all my possible means to get her back,after much begging,but all to no avail and she confirmed it that she has made her decision,and she never wanted to see me again. So on one evening,as i was coming back from work,i met an old friend of mine who asked of my wife So i explained every thing to her,so she told me that the only way i can get my wife back,is to visit a spell caster,because it has really worked for her too So i never believed in spell,but i had no other choice,than to follow her advice. Then she gave me the email address of the spell caster whom she visited.(bravespellcaster@gmail.com}, So the next morning,i sent a mail to the address she gave to me,and the spell caster assured me that i will get my wife back the next day what an amazing statement!! I never believed,so he spoke with me,and told me everything that i need to do. Then the next morning, So surprisingly, my wife who did not call me for the past seven {7}months,gave me a call to inform me that she was coming back So Amazing!! So that was how she came back that same day,with lots of love and joy,and she apologized for her mistake,and for the pain she caused me and my children. Then from that day,our relationship was now stronger than how it were before,by the help of a spell caster . So, was now stronger than how it were before,by the help of a spell caster . So, i will advice you out there to kindly visit the same website http://bravespellcaster.yolasite.com,if you are in any condition like this,or you have any problem related to “bringing your ex back. So thanks to Dr Brave for bringing back my wife,and brought great joy to my family once again.{bravespellcaster@gmail.com} , Thanks.

    Are you passing through any of these problems,

    DO YOU NEED YOUR EX BACK VERY FAST

    DON YOU WANT YOUR LOVER TO LOVE YOU AS NEVER LIKE BEFORE

    ARE YOU SUFFERING FROM A LONG TIME SICKNESS

    ARE YOU FACING FINANCIAL PROBLEMS

    ARE YOU SEEKING FOR A GOOD JOB

    DO YOU WANT TO BECOME A HOUSE OWNER

    ARE YOU LOOKING FOR A FIRST CLASS GRADE

    DO YOU WANT TO COME OUT FIRST IN YOUR EXAMS

    ARE YOU A STAR AND YOU WANT TO BE SO POPULAR TO THE WHOLE WORLD

    DO YOU WANT TO BE RICH

    DO YOU WANT YOUR BUSINESS TO KEEP MOVING

    DO YOU HAVE A COMPANY OF ANY KIND AND YOU WANT IT TO EXPAND

    DO YOU WANT YOUR HUSBAND OR WIFE TO KEEP TO YOUR WORLD

    ARE YOU FACING ANY MARITAL PROBLEMS

    ARE YOU FINDING IT DIFFICULT TO GET PREGNANT FOR YOUR HUSBAND

    ARE YOU EXPERIENCING MISCARRIAGES ANY TIME YOU TAKE IN

    DO YOU WANT TO COMPETE IN ANY LOTTERY GAME

    ARE YOU FACING HARDSHIP

    HAVE YOU BEEN THREATENED BY SOMEONE

    DO YOU WANT TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN ANY THING YOU LAY YOUR HANDS ON

    IS YOUR SON OR DAUGHTER BEHAVING STRANGELY

    ARE YOU FACING WITCH CRAFT MANIPULATIONS

    DO YOU WANT TO CAST A STRONG LOVE SPELL ON YOUR GIRL OR BOY FRIEND

    DO YOU NEED MAGIC POWERS TO DO ANY THING YOU WANT

    ARE YOU FINDING IT DIFFICULT TO CHOOSE A LIFE PARTNER

    DO YOU WANT YOUR PARENTS TO BE PROUD OF YOU

    ARE YOU EXPERIENCING FAILURE AND DISAPPOINTMENT IN ANY THING YOU DO.(ETC)

    IF you are in any condition like this,or you have any problem related to “bringing your ex back. So thanks to Dr Brave for bringing back my wife,and brought great joy to my family once again.{bravespellcaster@gmail.com} , Thanks.

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