The Conservative right are spitting blood over the sacking of the eurosceptic Owen Paterson from the cabinet, but it’s the party’s left that is clearly visible as the biggest loser from this reshuffle. Ken Clarke, Dominic Grieve, George Young, Damian Green, David Willetts, Alan Duncan, Nick Hurd and Greg Barker, all figures from the Tories’ moderate wing (what used to be known as “wets”), have lost their posts tonight.
The departure of Clarke and Grieve, the two biggest Conservative supporters of the European Convention on Human Rights, paves the way for a Tory manifesto pledge to withdraw from the Strasbourg court’s jurisdiction. William Hague’s surprise resignation as Foreign Secretary has also shifted the cabinet’s centre of gravity to the right. Compared to his party’s recalcitrant europhobes, Hague has been positively pragmatic in his attitude to the EU and the ECHR. He has been replaced by Philip Hammond, one of two cabinet ministers (along with Michael Gove) on record as saying that he would vote for Britain to leave the European Union were a referendum held today. The expected return of Liam Fox, a doctrinaire Thatcherite, will further bolster the right. Set against all of this, the departure of Paterson is politically trivial.
While there will be promotions for some Tory moderates tomorrow, such as Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan, the ideological momentum is with the new right, those such as Sajid Javid, Liz Truss and Priti Patel, who draw inspiration from Margaret Thatcher and extol the virtues of the free market and the small state. The gender-centric headlines will focus on the rise of young women and the fall of old men, but far more significant is the rise of the Tory radicals and the fall of the Tory moderates.