The PM is due to shake up his team early this week. Photo: Getty
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Reshuffle speculation: a round-up

A shake-up of government figures is expected early this week. Here are the latest rumours.

As the Westminster world anticipates a reshuffle early this week, here is a round-up of the latest speculation about who’s going where, and who’s going home (well, back to the backbench).

 

Ladies first

The Sun on Sunday reported this weekend that David Cameron is hoping for a “Tory first lady” to represent the party going into the 2015 general election. And this reshuffle is being seen as the PM’s opportunity to promote a number of women to top positions, having been criticised during previous reshuffles for failing to come closer to fulfilling his commitment to a third of his government being female by the end of his first term.

Not everyone is thrilled that the PM is scouring his backbenches for female talent; the Mail’s Amanda Platell is derisive of this move, calling it “a cynically calculated attempt to make him more appealing to female voters”, and saying it’s too much, too late.

There are many talented female Conservative MPs who have been almost unanimously tipped by the papers for promotion. These include education minister Liz Truss, a free-thinker who I’m told has often felt stifled by the Department for Education’s penchant for rather exacting, controlling special advisers; Treasury minister Nicky Morgan; work and pensions minister Esther McVey, a former TV presenter who the Today programme reported this morning is expected by some to become “minister for television”, and one of the most prominent backbenchers of the new Tory radical rightwing vanguard, Priti Patel, is expected to be given a government post.

When Maria Miller resigned as culture secretary earlier this year during an expenses row, and was replaced by Sajid Javid, I was told by a senior Tory MP that both Truss and McVey were rather put out by the PM’s decision to promote an already-senior man to a position once filled by a woman. They have been waiting their turn for a seat at the cabinet table.

The Independent’s Jane Merrick gives a whole host of further names of female Tory backbenchers who the PM would do well to put into government roles: Nicola Blackwood, Angie Bray, Fiona Bruce, Therese Coffey, Tracey Crouch, Caroline Dinenage, Jackie Doyle-Price, Rebecca Harris, Margot James, Pauline Latham, Jessica Lee, Charlotte Leslie, Mary Macleod, Anne Main, Penny Mordaunt, Sarah Newton and Caroline Nokes.

She writes: “If we are including whips – and, as members of the Government, they should be counted – and Lib Dems, there are 129 jobs in the coalition. At the moment, 27 government members are women. To make it one-third, this needs to increase to 42.”

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers, about whom there have been whispers over the past weeks, is now expected to be safe in her job.

 

Out with the pale, male and stale

Many news outlets are spelling the end for the old guard of senior politicians who have been hanging around the cabinet for a long time. Here at the New Statesman, George Eaton wrote on Friday that this reshuffle would see the end of the One Nation Tories in the cabinet, reporting that veteran cabinet member and current minister without portfolio Ken Clarke will be culled, along with fellow Tory “wet” George Young, who replaced Andrew Mitchell as chief whip in 2012. Greg Hands, currently deputy chief whip, is expected to replace Young.

The Times includes leader of the house and former health secretary Andrew Lansley in its death knell for the “pale, male and stale” of this government, reporting today that last night “the Conservatives ruled out choosing an MP as the next European commissioner.” Lansley was hoping to take this role, but apparently the Tories are unwilling to risk another by-election.

Additionally, the website PoliticsHome is reporting the Sun’s story that up to 20 ministers are for the chop, including Welsh Secretary David Jones, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson and Science Minister David Willetts.

 

Never outfoxed

But not all the male, Tory big names will be departing. The former defence secretary – who was forced to leave the position in 2011 due to inadvisably carting his friend around as a lobbyist – Liam Fox is due for a “surprise comeback”. Always considered a more dynamic cabinet secretary than his successor Philip Hammond, Fox certainly hasn’t kept quiet on the backbenches since his departure, and it looks like Cameron’s been listening. Fox is tipped to return for a “key role” in the run-up to the election, as the Mail reports, though the Times suggests it won’t be as chief whip, as many have been speculating.

In other news of comebacks from those who have previously had to resign, Mark Harper – the immigration minister whose cleaner was an illegal immigrant ­– is expected to return, although probably not to another Home Office role. Andrew Mitchell, the former chief whip embroiled in the Plebgate affair, was down for a comeback, but it’s unlikely considering he is still in libel proceedings.

 

Still in work and pensions

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary about whose imminent reshuffle there have been multiple reports in recent days, is now rumoured to be staying in his job after all.

The speculation was fired up by a supposedly high-level conversation overheard by a commuter on a train: "The call kept dropping out because of the tunnels but she rang him straight back, talking about Ian and Esther. She didn't seem to care. She said 'Ian wants to go and has agreed to go, he's been fed up for a while waiting for decisions from the Treasury'."

 

EU who?

There have been a number of candidates hankering after the role of European Commissioner for a while, but many of them will be disappointed as it emerges that the Tory party has apparently ruled out choosing a current MP for a role, to avoid triggering a by-election. The hopeful MPs are said to include Andrew Mitchell, Andrew Lansley, Michael Fallon, Philip Hammond, Justine Greening and Lib Dem Michael Moore. However, according to the Times, it is now expected the job is more likely to go to Lord Howard of Lympne, the former Conservative leader, Lord Hill of Oareford, the Tory leader in the upper chamber, and Baroness Wheatcroft, the former newspaper editor.

 

You Swinson, you lose some

A story emerged last week that Lib Dem business and women and equalities minister Jo Swinson, tipped often to take the first female Lib Dem cabinet position, would be promoted in this reshuffle. However, our George Eaton has reported that while Nick Clegg considered this move, potentially to replace Ed Davey as Energy Secretary, her promotion will be delayed until after the Scottish referendum, when she is set to replace Alistair Carmichael as Scotland Secretary.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

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How Donald Trump is slouching towards the Republican nomination

There was supposed to be a ceiling above which Trump’s popular support could not climb.

In America, you can judge a crowd by its merchandise. Outside the Connecticut Convention Centre in Hartford, frail old men and brawny moms are selling “your Trump 45 football jerseys”, “your hats”, “your campaign buttons”. But the hottest item is a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Hillary sucks . . . but not like Monica!” and, on the back: “Trump that bitch!” Inside, beyond the checkpoint manned by the Transportation Security Administration and the secret service (“Good!” the man next to me says, when he sees the agents), is a family whose three kids, two of them girls, are wearing the Monica shirt.

Other people are content with the shirts they arrived in (“Waterboarding – baptising terrorists with freedom” and “If you don’t BLEED red, white and blue, take your bitch ass home!”). There are 80 chairs penned off for the elderly but everyone else is standing: guys in motorcycle and military gear, their arms folded; aspiring deal-makers, suited, on cellphones; giggling high-school fatsos, dressed fresh from the couch, grabbing M&M’s and Doritos from the movie-theatre-style concession stands. So many baseball hats; deep, bellicose chants of “Build the wall!” and “USA!”. (And, to the same rhythm, “Don-ald J!”)

A grizzled man in camouflage pants and combat boots, whose T-shirt – “Connecticut Militia III%” – confirms him as a member of the “patriot” movement, is talking to a zealous young girl in a short skirt, who came in dancing to “Uptown Girl”.

“Yeah, we were there for Operation American Spring,” he says. “Louis Farrakhan’s rally of hate . . .”

“And you’re a veteran?” she asks. “Thank you so much!”

Three hours will pass. A retired US marine will take the rostrum to growl, “God bless America – hoo-rah!”; “Uptown Girl” will play many more times (much like his speeches, Donald J’s playlist consists of a few items, repeated endlessly), before Trump finally looms in and asks the crowd: “Is this the greatest place on Earth?”

There was supposed to be a ceiling above which Trump’s popular support could not climb. Only a minority within a minority of Americans, it was assumed, could possibly be stupid enough to think a Trump presidency was a good idea. He won New Hampshire and South Carolina with over 30 per cent of the Republican vote, then took almost 46 per cent in Nevada. When he cleaned up on Super Tuesday in March, he was just shy of 50 per cent in Massachusetts; a week later, he took 47 per cent of the votes in Mississippi.

His rivals, who are useless individually, were meant to co-operate with each other and the national party to deny him the nomination. But Trump won four out of the five key states being contested on “Super-Duper Tuesday” on 15 March. Then, as talk turned to persuading and co-opting his delegates behind the scenes, Trump won New York with 60 per cent.

Now, the campaign is trying to present Trump as more “presidential”. According to his new manager, Paul Manafort, this requires him to appear in “more formal settings” – without, of course, diluting “the unique magic of Trump”. But whether or not he can resist denouncing the GOP and the “corrupt” primary system, and alluding to violence if he is baulked at at the convention, the new Trump will be much the same as the old.

Back in Hartford: “The Republicans wanna play cute with us, right? If I don’t make it, you’re gonna have millions of people that don’t vote for a Republican. They’re not gonna vote at all,” says Trump. “Hopefully that’s all, OK? Hopefully that’s all, but they’re very, very angry.”

This anger, which can supposedly be turned on anyone who gets in the way, has mainly been vented, so far, on the protesters who disrupt Trump’s rallies. “We’re not gonna be the dummies that lose all of our jobs now. We’re gonna be the smart ones. Oh, do you have one over there? There’s one of the dummies . . .”

There is a frenzied fluttering of Trump placards, off to his right. “Get ’em out! . . . Don’t hurt ’em – see how nice I am? . . . They really impede freedom of speech and it’s a disgrace. But the good news is, folks, it won’t be long. We’re just not taking it and it won’t be long.”

It is their removal by police, at Trump’s ostentatious behest, that causes the disruption, rather than the scarcely audible protesters. He seems to realise this, suddenly: “We should just let ’em . . . I’ll talk right over them, there’s no problem!” But it’s impossible to leave the protesters where they are, because it would not be safe. His crowd is too vicious.

Exit Trump, after exactly half an hour, inclusive of the many interruptions. His people seem uplifted but, out on the street, they are ambushed by a large counter-demonstration, with a booming drum and warlike banners and standards (“Black Lives Matter”; an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, holding aloft Trump’s severed head). Here is the rest of the world, the real American world: young people, beautiful people, more female than male, every shade of skin colour. “F*** Donald Trump!” they chant.

After a horrified split-second, the Trump crowd, massively more numerous, rallies with “USA!” and – perplexingly, since one of the main themes of the speech it has just heard was the lack of jobs in Connecticut – “Get a job!” The two sides then mingle, unobstructed by police. Slanging matches break out that seem in every instance to humiliate the Trump supporter. “Go to college!” one demands. “Man, I am in college, I’m doin’ lovely!”

There is no violence, only this: some black boys are dancing, with liquid moves, to the sound of the drum. Four young Trump guys counter by stripping to their waists and jouncing around madly, their skin greenish-yellow under the street lights, screaming about the building of the wall. There was no alcohol inside; they’re drunk on whatever it is – the elixir of fascism, the unique magic of Trump. It’s a hyper but not at all happy drunk.

As with every other moment of the Trump campaign so far, it would have been merely some grade of the cringeworthy – the embarrassing, the revolting, the pitiful – were Trump not slouching closer and closer, with each of these moments, to his nomination. 

This article first appeared in the 28 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The new fascism