Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Shuffling packs and hacks

You wait months for a reshuffle, then two come along at once.

Gordon Brown has won plaudits for his reshuffle from a media well used to the great Blairite British tradition of botched reshuffles. ("Peter will be known as Minister for Wales, no hang on the job's not being abolished, he'll still be Secretary of State" to summarise one government briefing a few years ago).

Mr Peter, as it turned out, is one of only two Ministers to keep his old brief in the new Brown cabinet, although he swapped his Northern Ireland role for Work and Pensions. Des Browne keeps Defence but adds Scotland, a move which has upset what's known as "the defence family" (lobby?) and some Scots.

David Cameron also reshuffled his pack. Cheryl Gillan keeps Wales (funny how the Tories bang on about a Scotsman running England but then put an MP for an English seat in charge of their Welsh brief).

We're still waiting to hear what presents the three Welsh Tory MPs get from their leader. Perhaps it is the dampening of expectations although none of the three expects to win promotion (David Jones is already on the front bench as Cheryl Gillan's deputy).

Friends of David Jones, David Davies and Stephen Crabb fear they may have blotted their copybook with their leader by opposing attempts to take the Tories into a coalition government with Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats in the Welsh Asssembly. I'm told that a few weeks ago the three were so concerned about this prospect they demanded - and got - a meeting with Mr Cameron to make their views clear.

As I write, Gordon Brown is preparing to make a statement to MPs on constitutional reform. There's talk of some form of written constitution and/or a bill of rights.

Perhaps this could incorporate the new traditions of 21st century Britain, such as the election date being announced first in The Sun. It is perhaps time to codify other institutions, such as reshuffle speculation.

As a young hack I once got my fingers burnt predicting on what I thought was good authority the demise of Peter Walker as Welsh Secretary.

I was proved wrong within weeks (I won't use the line "it was true at the time"), and I've been more cautious about reshuffle predictions - and e ever since.

Under the new constitution, every reshuffle should automatically be preceded by a bout of feverish, ill-informed and often contradictory speculation about the creation of a new Secretary of State for the Nations and Regions, merging the Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland Offices.

If I had a pound for every time I'd heard or read this rumour and speculation presented as fact I'd be able to buy a Timothy Everest suit on the proceeds.

Of course, all that speculation doesn't mean it won't come true one day.....

1 comment:

Christopher Glamorgan said...

I thought we regarded Gillian as one of our own these days. One nod from your good self will have her proclaimed as full-Welsh (as we've seen in previous posts) :>D.

With regard to a Secretary of State for the Nations and Regions (merging the Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland Offices). What are the chances of finding an MP/Peer with Welsh/Scottish/Irish ancestry? I'm sure that you'll track one down!