David Cameron speaks at the World Economic Forum on Jan. 24, 2014. Photograph: Getty Images.
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New women's minister Nicky Morgan to "report directly" to Cameron

Minister's boss is still a man - just a different man.
 

One would have thought that even David Cameron could execute a minor cabinet reshuffle without controversy. But seemingly not. After naming Nicky Morgan as the new women's minister, but denying her the related equalities brief (owing to her opposition to equal marriage), the question arose of who was ultimately responsibility for the portfolio: Morgan or Sajid Javid (the new Culture Secretary and minister for equalities)?

At the post-PMQs briefing,  Cameron's spokesman said: "He is the cabinet minister. She attends cabinet", a response that suggested that, for the first time ever, the women's minister would be subordinate to a man. But at this afternoon's lobby briefing, the spokesman withdrew his earlier remarks ("a mistake") and announced that Morgan would instead "report directly to the Prime Minister on women's issues" (not Javid). He added: "She will have an office as Minister for Women supported by DCMS staff. But with regard to her responsibilities for women, she will report to the Prime Minister." In other words, Morgan's boss is still a man - just a different man.

Asked who had responsibility for issues relating to gay women, Cameron's spokesman simply replied that "ministers work as a team", a response that suggests that Morgan is still best described as "minister for straight women".  And, of course, there is now no full member of the cabinet responsible for women. Even by the standards of this government, quite a mess.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.