The FT, the Guardian, the Mail and the Independent all agreed this morning; the reshuffle was David Cameron’s turn to the right. In came Chris Grayling, out went Ken Clarke. In came Owen Paterson to Defra, in came Michael Fallon to the business department. One Number 10 official remarked yesterday described Grayling as “a good rightwing appointment”. I don’t think I have ever heard someone so close to Cameron saying anything like that before.
Our analysis on how important a moment this could be can be found here.
The problem is, Labour doesn’t seem to get it (to coin a phrase). Ed Miliband decided instead to attack the prime minister for carrying out a “no change” reshuffle:
He brought back the member for Yeovil [David Laws] who had been sacked, he promoted the culture secretary [Jeremy Hunt], who should have been sacked and he left the chancellor in place. It is a no-change reshuffle. If he really wants to cut through the dither there is no place like home.
The reason for the Labour leader going down this line is clear: his theme for the next few weeks and months is going to be the government’s failure to change course and stimulate the economy, so it works best to attack the PM for not replacing his chancellor.
There is another reason for not criticising Cameron for lurching to the right. The obvious example of this is promoting Chris Grayling, but Grayling’s stance on justice issues is mouch more likely to be in tune with that of the public than those of Ken Clarke. Labour don’t want to be outflanked to the right on justice and home affairs.
But there is a way Labour could make this attack work.
When Cameron was running for office, he promised he would be a new style of Tory leader in several ways, including caring about the environment, having a more caring justice policy and promoting more women and ethnic minorities. Whether or not you agree that he is doing the right thing by turning his back on these ideas, it is surely worth Labour pointing out that dropping them in the face of rebellion from his own party makes the prime minister look weak, shallow and lacking in solid principles.