Michael Gove goes from Education Secretary to Chief Whip. Photo: Getty
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Michael Gove becomes Chief Whip; Nicky Morgan takes over as Education Secretary

The former Education Secretary Michael Gove is now Chief Whip, replacing Sir George Young. Women's minister Nicky Morgan has replaced Gove - although she will also keep her equalities role.

In more harrowing news for the PM's middle-aged white men, Education Secretary and neocon darling of the Tory right Michael Gove has been demoted from his post to Chief Whip, with an "enhanced role in campaigning and doing broadcast media interviews", according to the PM's Twitter feed.

This is another surprise move in Cameron's shake-up of his government this week, perhaps only eclipsed by the news that William Hague has resigned from the cabinet as Foreign Secretary and will be standing down next year.

Gove will be replaced by Treasury minister Nicky Morgan, who has quietly and confidently been earning her stripes and has been increasingly praised as a somewhat hidden Tory talent by pundits. Morgan will retain her role as minister for Women and Equalities. This appointment goes with the general predictions, which have been rumbling away for weeks, that the PM's final reshuffle of this parliament was going to be one for promoting women to the top tiers of his regime.

Gove's appointment is a strange one. He is known for having the gift of the gab, and even for those who loathe him (of whom there are many), he is an arresting figure during interviews and at the despatch box. The role of Chief Whip usually means you stay silent, out of the limelight, and can't take too many media appearances. Perhaps then it makes sense that Cameron seems to have tweaked the role especially for Gove by requiring a more outward role in campaigning and broadcast interviews. The two roles - operating behind the scenes and being a public face of the party - don't sit comfortably though, and it suggests the PM was hard-pressed to find an alternative position for his former education secretary.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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Europe's elections show why liberals should avoid fatalism

France, Germany and the Netherlands suggest there is nothing inevitable about the right's advance.

Humans are unavoidably pattern-seeking creatures. We give meaning to disparate events where little or none may exist. So it is with Brexit and Donald Trump. The proximity of these results led to declarations of liberalism's demise. After decades of progress, the tide was said to have unavoidably turned.

Every election is now treated as another round in the great duel between libralism and populism. In the Netherlands, the perennial nativist Geert Wilders was gifted outsize attention in the belief that he could surf the Brexit-Trump wave to victory. Yet far from triumphing, the Freedom Party finished a distant second, increasing its seats total to 20 (four fewer than in 2010). Wilders' defeat was always more likely than not (and he would have been unable to form a government) but global events gifted him an aura of invincibility.

In France, for several years, Marine Le Pen has been likely to make the final round of the next presidential election. But it was only after Brexit and Trump's election that she was widely seen as a potential victor. As in 2002, the front républicain is likely to defeat the Front National. The winner, however, will not be a conservative but a liberal. According to the post-Trump narrative, Emmanuel Macron's rise should have been impossible. But his surge (albeit one that has left him tied with Le Pen in the first round) suggests liberalism is in better health than suggested.

In Germany, where the far-right Alternative für Deutschland was said to be remorselessly advancing, politics is returning to traditional two-party combat. The election of Martin Schulz has transformed the SPD's fortunes to the point where it could form the next government. As some Labour MPs resign themselves to perpeutal opposition, they could be forgiven for noting what a difference a new leader can make.

2016 will be forever remembered as the year of Brexit and Trump. Yet both events could conceivably have happened in liberalism's supposed heyday. The UK has long been the EU's most reluctant member and, having not joined the euro or the Schengen Zone, already had one foot outside the door. In the US, the conditions for the election of a Trump-like figure have been in place for decades. For all this, Leave only narrowly won and Hillary Clinton won three million more votes than her opponent. Liberalism is neither as weak as it is now thought, nor as strong as it was once thought.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.