Coffee House

Small Reshuffle in Britain; Not Many Dead

7 October 2013

First things first: a reshuffle in which only one cabinet minister is sacked redeployed is a reshuffle in name only. It means the action – if you can call it that – is confined to the replacement of ministers of whom most of you have never heard with other MPs of whom you are most likely equally ignorant.

A day of low drama in Westminster then.

Secondly, ejecting Michael Moore from the Scotland Office is not, I think, a reflection on his performance. If he was an accidental Secretary of State whose elevation to the cabinet was the result of David Laws’ disgrace, Moore still carried out his duties diligently – a very Michael Moore word, by the way – and without fuss or drama.

Alistair Carmichael will, we are told, bring a more combative approach to the Scotland Office. Well, we shall see. But he is still a Scottish Liberal Democrat. They don’t do Rottweiler. His promotion, I fancy, owes much to Nick Clegg’s desire to reward Carmichael’s years of service in the thankless task of persuading Lib Dem backbenchers to vote in favour of policies pursued by a government formed, in part, by the Liberal Democrats. This has been harder than you might think and tougher than it should have been.


And since Clegg, Vince Cable and Danny Alexander cannot be moved that meant poor old Michael Moore was for the chop. So be it. Nonetheless, it is worth observing that being eminently and obviously reasonable helped Moore be a quietly successful Scottish Secretary. He acted as a fire blanket, suffocating nationalist grievance. The independence referendum is, at least in part, a contest in which both sides are determined to seem more reasonable than the other. Moore was rather good at that. He did not make the kinds of gaffe – often seen from the likes of Hammond and Osborne – that gave the nationalists an opening or an opportunity to complain that the coalition government was trussing Scotland up in a sado-masochistic gimp suit.

Not, perhaps, the greatest political epitaph but there have been worse ones, you know.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Lib Dem Land one can only assume that replacing Jeremy Browne with conspiracy-theorist Norman Baker is some kind of Cleggian attempt at humour. Memo to Baker: David Kelly was not murdered.

But it is also, perhaps, a revealing moment. Browne, after all, seemed to quite enjoy being in government and that, if nothing else, marks him out from most of his colleagues. His departure is, then, another signal that at the next general election the Lib Dems intend to run away from their record. They may feel this makes sense or that they have no alternative but it is still a foolish choice. Why vote for a party ashamed of its record in office? People of Britain: lend us your protest votes against the government of which we were a part! I am sure that will work. (They tried this in Scotland in 2011. Results were unimpressive.)

Look at what we stopped! is a thin and contemptible little slogan much less impressive or effective than Look at what we did! Unless, that is, you secretly suspect your voters are not interested in power at all and, indeed, find the whole experience disagreeably distasteful.

Which, in the end, sends the message that the party is neither fit for office nor worthy of the great political tradition of which it is notionally the inheritor and guardian. But, I suppose, that’s their choice.


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  • allymax bruce

    I just wanted to add, Torquil Crichton and his journo-pal Severin Carell, are the worst journos that talk for Scotland; worse even than you, Massie.
    Scotland, in our independent Scotland, must dump yoos foxn loosers, that, like Labour, did absolutely nothing for us Scots, but, only talked oor Nation doon!

  • allymax bruce

    Dear Michael Moore, thank you for your guidance, as Scottish Secretary. I apologise for questioning your patrionism to Scotland. And I hope your constituents realise you’ve been good for Scotland. Good luck in your new ventures, Michael, allymax. For Allister Carmichael, being a hard-nosed prosecutor, is not enough to bother our First Minister Alex’ Salmond; just exactly what is Allister ‘prosecuting’? I know. Allister is prosecuting the international development of Scotland’s absolutely guaranteed independence. There’s really no argument, It is written.

    • terregles2

      Think Michael Moore was always respected in Scotland by both the YES and NO campaigners. He is a man of integrity and many YES supporters wish him well for the future.

  • Littlegrayman

    Small Reshuffle in Britain; Not Many Dead. But how would you tell?
    MP’s appear to exhibit the characteristics of viruses as they appear to be dependent on the biochemical machinery of a host cell, the electorate for reproduction.

  • MichtyMe

    What are the duties of the Scottish Secretary? They are not governmental, party political rather, nat basher certainly, but does that justify a ministerial salary from the taxpayer?

  • Jeanne Tomlin

    Considering the trouncing that Moore took from Nicola Sturgeon in their recent debate, I am not sure that ‘without fuss or drama’ was what they were looking for in the “Secretary for Convincing the Scots that Westminster Should Run Their Country”.

    • terregles2

      Seems odd we are told the no campaign is miles ahead in the opinion polls and yet the Better Together choose to replace the man who is winning the no argument. Why change the winning team.?

      • Jeanne Tomlin

        Because of that trouncing, I rather suspect. Sturgeon mopped the floor with him. If he had to go up against Salmond, which some expected to happen, it would have been a blood bath. I don’t think they made a good choice in a replacement though. Carmichael isn’t known as a great debater, just for having a loud voice for yelling. Salmond can do that AND debate.

        Edit: And I have never felt that the No campaign acted like a campaign that was having good internal polling. That is another consideration. I do wonder what they are showing, either on the doorstep or in private polls.

        • terregles2

          Another excellent debate was the recent debate at Abertay University between George Robertson and Stewart Hosie.MP

          What a turnaround. Stewart was really impressive.

        • terregles2

          There is really nobody who can defend the union as more facts emerge on a weekly basis with regard as to what has been hidden from the Scottish people over the decades. The latest information that the MOD blocked oil exploration in the Firth of Clyde beause it was to close to where the UK stores Trident missiles really is yet one more reason that the YES vote is rising.

  • HookesLaw

    The trouble with the LDs is their SDP heritage. Basically labour, not ‘Liberal’.

    ‘Liberal’ is a dirty word in american politics but there is a distinct and fair history of ‘liberal’ in a British context. Admitedly in my view there has always been a wishy washy tendency in the liberal movement but at least they opposed socialism. These days even though the fruit loop pacifist Blair hating socialists have gone back to Labour (where they lap up Milibands marxist tendency) its still hard to make up your minds where the LDs stand.

    The govt pary has a lead over Labour. The LDs would be daft not to sort out some common ground to attack Labour in 2015.

    • Colonel Mustard

      They appear to share Labour’s ethos of putting power over policies despite waffling about the national interest. Much of their coalition time has been spent attacking the Tories almost as if they were in opposition and the business with ‘Hacked Off’ and Miliband was just pure skulduggery.

      I would think twice of entering coalition with them again regardless of results but clearly they think they have a right to arbitrate in permanent government.

    • Derick Tulloch

      The Fiberals are Men of Straw, who blow with every passing breeze. Always have been, always will be. Agree with the article – Moore was dull but quite excessively, annoyingly, reasonable. And I don’t think he really believes in the Union. Carmichael is just after a peerage. Lord Carmichael of Brassneck has peerie bit o a ring, shurly

  • Tony Young

    Why can’t ANYONE spell George OSBORNE’s name properly? You’re supposed to be a journalist!

    • gerontius

      So how should it be spelt?

      • Tony Young

        Read my post, above!

        • gerontius

          Hey man, just a gentle wind up as you seemed too cool for your own good

  • Tron

    My contempt for the Lib-Dems grows with every news cycle.

  • HookesLaw

    You are right about the LD approach to coalition. They are not goinjg to get far fighting Labour (who are their oponents) if they refuse to defend the last 5 years in power

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