Jo Swinson speaks at the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton in 2012. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Exclusive: Jo Swinson tipped to enter cabinet in Lib Dem reshuffle

Business minister, who recently returned from maternity leave, would replace Ed Davey. 

More than four years after they first entered government, the Lib Dems have still not had a single female cabinet minister. For many in the party, already dismayed by the Rennard affair, it has long been a point of shame.

But the upcoming cabinet reshuffle, expected early next week, offers a chance to finally change this. A senior party source suggests that Jo Swinson is line to replace Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, in the party's top team. Swinson, who recently returned from maternity leave (she is married to fellow Lib Dem MP Duncan Hames), has long been regarded as the strongest female candidate to enter the cabinet. She is a Clegg loyalist, a reliable media performer, and has impressed during her time as a business minister. Her current post would likely be filled by Jenny Willott, who covered for Swinson while she was on leave. If she does enter the cabinet, Swinson would be the youngest-ever female cabinet minister and the first cabinet minister born in the 1980s. 

The switch would be a logical one, but it would dismay Davey, who replaced Chris Huhne as Energy Secretary in 2012, and has long been regarded by MPs as positioning himself for a future leadership bid. 

No other cabinet-level changes are expected on the Lib Dem side. Clegg confirmed at the weekend that Vince Cable would remain Business Secretary until the election, Alistair Carmichael will remain as Scottish Secretary in advance of the independence referendum, and Danny Alexander will remain Chief Secretary to the Treasury ahead of his likely confirmation as the party's chief economic spokesman for the election (replacing Cable in that role). 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

David Cameron shows Labour how to do it

Leftwing rhetoric masked rightwing reality in Cameron's conference speech.

“The tanks are in the kitchen,” was the gloomy verdict of one Labour staffer to a speech in which the Prime Minister roamed freely into traditional left-wing territory.

But don’t be fooled: David Cameron is still the leader of an incredibly right-wing government for all the liberal-left applause lines.

He gave a very moving account of the difficulties faced by careleavers: but it is his government that is denying careleavers the right to claim housing benefit after they turn 22.

He made a powerful case for expanding home ownership: but his proposed solution is a bung for buy-to-let boomers and dual-earner childless couples, the only working-age demographic to do better under Cameron than under Labour.

On policy, he made just one real concession to the left: he stuck to his guns on equal rights and continued his government’s assault on the ridiculous abuse of stop-and-search. Neither of these are small issues, and they are a world away from the Conservative party before Cameron – but they also don’t cost anything.

In exchange for a few warm words, Cameron will get the breathing space to implement a true-blue Conservative agenda, with an ever-shrinking state for most of Britain, accompanied by largesse for well-heeled pensioners, yuppie couples, and small traders.

But in doing so, he gave Labour a lesson in what they must do to win again. Policy-wise,it is Labour – with their plans to put rocketboosters under the number of new housing units built – who have the better plan to spread home ownership than Cameron’s marginal solutions. But last week, John McDonnelll focussed on the 100,000 children in temporary accomodation. They are undoubtedly the biggest and most deserving victims of Britain’s increasingly dysfunctional housing market. But Labour can’t get a Commons majority – or even win enough seats to form a minority government – if they only talk about why their policies are right for the poor. They can’t even get a majority of votes from the poor that way.

What’s the answer to Britain’s housing crisis? It’s more housebuilding, including more social housing. Labour can do what Cameron did today in Manchester – and deliver radical policy with moderate rhetoric, or they can lose.

But perhaps, if Cameron feels like the wrong role model, they could learn from a poster at the People’s History Museum, taken not from Labour’s Blairite triumphs or even the 1960s, but from 1945: “Everyone – yes, everyone – will be better off under a Labour government”.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.