Boris has tightened his iron grip on government

14 February 2020

4:59 AM

14 February 2020

4:59 AM

This is the LDC reshuffle: loyalty, discipline and competence. Number 10 wants to ensure this government is all singing from the same hymn sheet. The desire for a joint Number 10 / 11 operation is the product of that. Sajid Javid’s refusal to sign up to the scheme made Number 10 think he wasn’t on board with this, which led to his resignation.

This joint Number 10 / 11 operation creates a very powerful force at the centre of government. Number 10, the Treasury and the Cabinet Office are now effectively yoked together. Under this set-up, no department will have any chance of resisting what the centre wants. Expect this new power base to focus relentlessly on delivery, with departments being hauled over coals on their progress – or, lack thereof – on delivering the Tories’ manifesto commitments.

Looking at the rest of the reshuffle you can see the LDC theme. Anne-Marie Trevelyan becomes Secretary of State for International Development. She is a Brexiteer and was a whip for Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign. She was also one of the MPs who most impressed Dominic Cummings’s during the referendum I suspect that she will be quite happy to shift the UK’s aid spending in a more strategic direction, bringing it into line with the UK’s foreign policy priorities.

Oliver Dowden is the new Culture Secretary. Dowden is uber-competent, knows how Whitehall works—he was Cameron’s deputy chief of staff and is uninterested in creating a profile for himself which makes him pretty much Number 10’s ideal minister.

Suella Braverman as Attorney General is an intriguing appointment. It suggests that Number 10 really is prepared to take on the courts over issues such as judicial review. Braverman, as her recent comments have shown, is keen to rebalance the relationship between parliament and the judiciary. The judges will not take this lying down.

The new Environment Secretary George Eustice will be the most popular appointment of the reshuffle. He’s a farmer by trade and a former fisheries minister so knows the brief extremely well. He will also be able to balance the interests of the animal welfare wing of the Tory party with those of the agricultural lobby.

Brandon Lewis replaces Julian Smith at the Northern Ireland Office. Lewis was one of the few ministers trusted to do the full media rounds during the campaign and his promotion is a reward for that. Having been security minister, he’ll be well placed to handle that aspect of the brief. But the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol will be a major challenge.

The former Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay takes Rishi Sunak’s old job as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Barclay is a safe pair of hands, a former Treasury Minister and a former Social Care Minister, which could turn out to be very important given that the government will need an answer to that problem this parliament.

What we are seeing now is a new way of governing. An all-powerful centre will try and drive things through. With Leavers in Number 10, the Treasury and the Cabinet Office there is also going to be unanimity on Brexit and the future trade deal with the EU.

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