•Perhaps the most striking feature of David Cameron’s extensive reshuffle is that it is largely a defensive response to UKIP. We are setting the agenda. We are making the weather.
The three main themes of the reshuffle were:
Presenting a more eurosceptic facade: Philip Hammond, described as “a vociferous eurosceptic”, becomes Foreign Secretary, spun as “The most openly sceptic Foreign Secretary in decades”. Michael Fallon goes to Defence. He too has a eurosceptic reputation – though it’s difficult to see how he’ll bring that to bear in the defence rôle. Priti Patel becomes Secretary to the Treasury, and is a lady of robust opinions. On the other hand the nomination of Lord “Who’s He?” Hill as EU Commissioner raised some eyebrows – and got Jean-Claude Juncker googling to find out who he was. He is presented as “a deal-maker”, but apparently he makes his deals very quietly. He is expected to lead the charge on Cameron’s renegotiation agenda. It may end up rather like the Charge of the Light Brigade. “C’est magnifique. Mais ce n’est pas la guerre”.
Jeremy Wright’s appointment as Attorney General is billed as “paving the way for Britain to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights”. And about time too.
Tip-toeing away from Cameron’s climate agenda: Remember Dave hugging those huskies? Remember “Vote Blue, Go Green”? (That was the slogan that finally confirmed my decision to leave the Tory Party – they’d lost it). The realisation is finally dawning that we’ve had enough. Our green policies on climate and energy are a threat to energy security – and could lead to blackouts next winter. They are undermining competitiveness, driving industries and jobs and investment out of the UK (and the EU) altogether. And forcing households and families into fuel poverty. I’m sure that the government (like the European Commission) has been listening to energy-intensive industry leaders (like Jim Ratcliffe of INEOS) who are very clear about the consequences of current policies. But I have little doubt that UKIP’s focus on secure and affordable energy, coupled with our opposition to wind farms and our support for protest groups, has played a significant rôle.
So now we see the fragrant Liz Truss, formerly a manager with Shell, appointed Secretary of State for Environment, and likely to bring a new element of hard-headed realism to the debate. But she has a tough call. The entrenched climate alarmism of the bien pensant commentariat, and of the media and their cheer-leaders at the institutionally-biased BBC, will be a tough nut to crack. And behind the failing paradigm of Warmism, and the 2008 Climate Change Act, stand EU legislation and emissions targets. The government will have to be very serious about its approach to Brussels if it’s to have any hope at all of sorting our energy problems.
A female-friendly approach: The government has been criticised for being “too male”, for having too few women in prominent positions: (To be fair, the same criticism has been levelled to UKIP, with some justification). So Cameron promoted ten women, including several to the Cabinet. Cameron seems well-informed on psephological issues (and so he should be, you will say). He will be aware of UKIP’s traditional weaknesses with women voters, and he will see his emphasis on the fair sex as delivering a vital advantage against UKIP. Perhaps he hasn’t yet noticed our Magnificent Seven women MEPs, but over the coming months leading up to the General Election they (and other prominent UKIP women) will be an increasingly dominant presence in the media, and will, I believe, lead a breakthrough for our Party with women voters.
In tactical terms, you could see Cameron’s move as a challenge to UKIP, as stealing some of our clear purple water. But look at it strategically. We’re driving the agenda. If you want independence and democracy, if you want secure and affordable energy, if you want Britain to control its borders, do you vote for the people who adopted these ideas under the pressure of public opinion? Wouldn’t you rather choose the people who really believe in these policies, and exist in order to achieve them?