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.

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John McDonnell praises New Labour as he enters conciliatory mode

The shadow chancellor sought to build a bridge between the past and the present by crediting the 1997 government. 

Ever since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader, John McDonnell has been on a mission to reinvent himself as a kinder, gentler politician. He hasn’t always succeeded. In July, the shadow chancellor declared of rebel MPs: “As plotters they were fucking useless”.

But in his Labour conference speech, Corbyn’s closest ally was firmly in conciliatory mode. McDonnell thanked Owen Smith for his part in defeating the Personal Independence Payment cuts. He praised Caroline Flint, with whom he has clashed, for her amendment to the financial bill on corporate tax transparency. Jonathan Reynolds, who will soon return to the frontbench, was credited for the “patriots pay their taxes” campaign (the latter two not mentioned in the original text).

McDonnell’s ecunmenicism didn’t end here. The 1997 Labour government, against which he and Corbyn so often defined themselves, was praised for its introduction of the minimum wage (though McDonnell couldn’t quite bring himself to mention Tony Blair). Promising a “real Living Wage” of around £10 per hour, the shadow chancellor sought to build a bridge between the past and the present. Though he couldn’t resist adding some red water as he closed: “In this party you no longer have to whisper it, it's called socialism. Solidarity!”

As a rebuke to those who accuse him of seeking power in the party, not the country, McDonnell spoke relentlessly of what the next Labour “government” would do. He promised a £250bn National Investment Bank, a “Right to Own” for employees, the repeal of the Trade Union Act and declared himself “interested” in the potential of a Universal Basic Income. It was a decidedly wonkish speech, free of the attack lines and jokes that others serve up.

One of the more striking passages was on McDonnell’s personal story (a recurring feature of Labour speeches since Sadiq Khan’s mayoral victory). “I was born in the city [Liverpool], not far from here,” he recalled. “My dad was a Liverpool docker and my mum was a cleaner who then served behind the counter at British Homes Stores for 30 years. I was part of the 1960's generation.  We lived in what sociological studies have described as some of the worst housing conditions that exist within this country. We just called it home.”

In his peroration, he declared: “In the birthplace of John Lennon, it falls to us to inspire people to imagine.” Most Labour MPs believe that a government led by Corbyn and McDonnell will remain just that: imaginary. “You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one,” the shadow chancellor could have countered. With his praise for New Labour, he began the work of forging his party’s own brotherhood of man.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.