The new cabinet-level ministers, including Esther McVey, are signed up to the coalition's welfare reforms, as steered by Iain Duncan Smith. Photo: Getty
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The new Cabinet ministers are divided on the EU and gay rights

Cameron's new group of ministers agree with his policies on welfare, education and health, but have mixed voting records on the EU and gay rights.

Reaction to yesterday’s reshuffle largely focused on how far it was a “purge of the middle-aged men” – as the Daily Mail put it.

On Monday night we reported on how many of the old guard of the Tory party would be moved on. In the end, eight white, male ministers aged between 53 and 74 departed.

David Cameron replaced this group by giving seven MPs the right to attend Cabinet, and promoted a formerly peripheral minister, Nicky Morgan, to the job of Education Secretary.

We have already taken a look at how this changed the balance of women and the age of the Cabinet. It has otherwise left the number of Oxbridge-educated, private-schooled and white ministers largely unchanged.

But the reshuffle has also had an ideological impact. As we noted, Cameron has culled the Tory left. This may be incidental; he seems to have been primarily motivated by moving older ministers on.

He has nevertheless replaced the old guard with a group that is wholly signed up to the party’s core policies, if one that is clearly undecided on its biggest ideological divides.

Using voting records from TheyWorkForYou, our analysis shows that the new Cabinet-attending ministers all support the coalition’s core policies on health, education, welfare, banks and tuition fees. (A rating of zero indicates full support for the rightwing position on each issue.)

As a group, it is less clear on gay rights and Europe. Four of the group – Morgan, Truss, McVey, and Hancock – are moderately in favour of further EU integration. The others either have mixed voting records or are moderately against it.

On gay rights, only three have relatively clear positions. Hancock and Truss are strongly for gay rights and gay marriage, whereas McVey has consistently voted against equal rights. Morgan has a mixed voting record on gay rights policies, but her opposition to same-sex marriage has seen her relinquish the responsibility of implementing it; this has been handed down to Nick Boles, who has a new dual role spanning BIS and the DfE.

The PM's new Cabinet is united on the coalition’s core policies, but doesn't provide a strong consensus on the issues that have been dividing the Tory party for most of its time in government.

Harry Lambert was the editor of May2015, the New Statesman's election website.

Photo: Getty Images
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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

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