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Reshuffle 2014: where is the radicalism?

17 July 2014

One of the more dispiriting things about this reshuffle has been the way in which important policy areas appear to have been downgraded. This week’s leading article in The Spectator lambasts the decision to move Michael Gove from Education, arguing that it means his reforms will slow and future politicians will still be able to criticise the number of Old Etonians in the Cabinet:

The Prime Minister and his coterie embody the problem. Gove was out to fix it, fighting a battle on behalf of the state school pupils -a battle that even Thatcher shied away from. Cameron has now decided that he’d rather this battle was not fought. His decision to abandon this battle and move Gove to become Chief Whip puts party before pupils. It raises new questions over his own commitment to the social justice agenda. And as our political editor James Forsyth says in this video, it makes sure more Etonians will dominate public life in years to come.

If the Prime Minister was particularly interested in the education of the less privileged, he might even have fought the next election on the fact that tougher curriculums mean that more pupils are learning rigorous disciplines such as science and languages, and fewer are sitting exams in pretend subjects such as media studies. Just one in eight teachers supported the recent strikes, showing that Mr Cameron was not only winning the argument but was on the cusp of a fundamental transformation in English state education. It would be a shame if a few badly worded opinion polls blinded him to that fact.

But it isn’t just Education that has been neutralised at the expense of the government’s social justice agenda. Housebuilding has, too. Nick Boles, arguably the finest minister holding the planning brief for a long time, was moved for similar reasons to Gove’s ejection: he was good, knowledgeable, but upset core Conservative voters.

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Now the housing portfolio has been mucked about with yet again. Kris Hopkins, who has held the post for a grand total of nine months, no longer works as Housing Minister. He remains in the Communities and Local Government department, but is covering pubs, local government and adult social care, not housing. The housing role has been absorbed into Brandon Lewis’ new Minister of State job, which also incorporates planning. This is very sensible: it seems silly to separate housing from planning. The former is dominated by social housing, which is increasingly a government response to a failure in the latter: poor planning policy leads to fewer homes and an unaffordable housing market, which in turn means more people need ‘affordable’ or social housing. A good move, then, but the only bit of sense in a reshuffle that seems to have allowed Eric Pickles, who was always suspicious of the enthusiastic Boles, to triumph in stopping any further planning reform. When Boles moved to the department, a colleague of his took me to one side and muttered about ‘Osborne’s spies’ being sent in. He added: ‘And let me tell you, it’s not Brandon.’ Presumably that means Brandon Lewis is more pro-Pickles than he is pro-Osborne.

And we have now had 15 housing ministers in 20 years, and four under this government alone.

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In 1963, the Conservatives published the above campaign poster. It’s difficult to imagine them publishing a similar one today, not least because the idea of 1,000 NEW HOUSES A DAY would be enough to give some key voters the vapours. But it’s also difficult to imagine it because, as on education, there seems to be an appetite to proceed on a softly-softly PR-led basis.

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Show comments
  • Makroon

    I think we have all received the message by now, that the Spectator didn’t like the reshuffle (or should that be: Fraser Nelson is having a hissy-fit because his favourite minister was reassigned ?)
    Another random diatribe by Ms Hardman doesn’t add much.
    Are the goings-on at Spectator Towers, rendering the whole staff frightened and allergic to any change ?

  • Mike Stallard

    UKIP: I realise – and so do several other people – that we cannot leave the EU because of the small print in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. I realise that we cannot stay in because of the insistence on a Unitary State of Europe by the European Parliament and the President of the Commission. So that’s a no.

    Then there are the TU paid Labour Party featuring the Education Blob and the Great Flood Experts Monbiot and la Toynbee. So that’s a no.

    Now we have Gay Marriage, Ladies Only and the sacking of four of the best members of the Cabinet (sorry two were just resignations). The debt is piling up fast. Defrenceless, we are virtually laughed off the world stage. And we are given a big fudge on Europe (as usual). So that’s a no.

    I think I shall lie in on the day of the election. How many other people will do the same? (Except in Tower Hamlets where the postal voting will be frantic, I have no doubt.)

    • The Masked Marvel

      Indeed, the reshuffle seems to have left UKIP supporters and fence-sitting Conservatives rather underwhelmed. This, as much if not more than removing Gove from education, shows Cameron is far more concerned about pleasing the pundits and media darlings and keeping backbenchers on message than he is about the public. Although he seems to have failed there as well, considering even the Speccie teenagers who bleed blue seem baffled and more than a bit grumpy. (Cameron has made sure public life will be run by old Etonians for years to come? Really?)

  • Lady Magdalene

    I strongly suspect that most Conservative and potential Conservative voters supported Gove’s Education reforms, but did not support Boles’ Planning reforms.
    The area where I live (Guildford Borough) is in revolt at villages being removed from the green belt and the sheer numbers of houses the council is “planning” to dump on villages – way out of proportion for local residents’ needs.

  • GraveDave

    the fact that tougher curriculums mean that more pupils are learning rigorous disciplines such as science and languages, and fewer are sitting exams in pretend subjects such as media studies.

    Schools are still teaching science and languages. They’ve always been essential subjects. As for the media studies thing, even when it was being overdone it was being exaggerated.

  • SG

    I know a few friends in the UK, talented and educated, leaving or thinking of leaving due to very expensive housing. Can’t blame them whotsoever. Lowest level of building since the 1920s, the highest prices compared to earnings for 100 years and way above historic averages. Just to prop up prices for the political class and older, wealthy swing voters. Why stay in the UK now if under 35?

    • telemachus

      Folks must stay and fight
      You advocate a council of despair
      You are correct that the problem is generated by the reprehensible to-us-and-ours Osbornism pervading this administration so weakly led by Cameron
      Listen good to the wise words of a true leader in this field Emma Reynolds

      In an interview with the Independent, Reynolds said: “At the moment all the political pressure is from those who own their own houses and have an interest in the status quo. But the people who are not getting a voice are those in their 20s and 30s who desperately want to own but can’t get the deposit. Local authorities have a waiting list for social housing but they have no idea of the scale of the need for private housing. So what could you do to give these people a voice and ensure that councillors are also listening to them?” Reynolds also claimed that waiting lists for plots of land would also provide evidence of the sheer numbers “frozen out” of today’s housing market.

      • Mike Stallard

        Out here in real England, houses are well under £200,000 – and that is for a big one. What about in the North where, I understand, they are virtually giving them away?
        Aren’t you being a little London-centric?

        • telemachus

          Affordable at that price
          Get more jobs and pay a living wage and Northern homes may become affordable
          In short let Emma’s colleagues control the agenda

          • Mike Stallard

            Allow me to suggest some corrections to your post:
            Make more jobs by freeing capitalists up a bit.
            Tax less and free us all up a bit.
            Stop feeding the undeserving poor.

            • telemachus

              Stop feeding the undeserving poor
              So what then?
              Let them starve?
              There are far too many who demonstrate the nasty nature of untrammelled Consevativism
              Lord help us if they get a majority next May

              • Makroon

                Considering the collapse in housebuilding under BlairBrown, you have far too much to say.

      • Ordinaryman

        Why are the 20 to 30 year olds “not getting a voice”? Is there not enough of them, or is it because they are not involving themselves in the system i.e taking an interest, thereby, not getting heard?

        • global city

          Bizarrely enough, telemachus is right about this one!

          • Makroon

            By urging more government intervention by local bureaucrats ?

            • global city

              No… about ensuring there is sufficient supply in the market. If everyone is holding on for the greater return then nothing will ever get built again and every shithole from bradford to ackersall will be valued at £10m

              • Ordinaryman

                Not everyone is “holding on for a greater return”. The ordinary householder will sell, presumably, to move to another property which will also have increased in price, therefore, no gain. Or, they will downsize to release capital very often to assist their children to buy. The only people to benefit from high property prices are the developers (through higher margins with less effort), property speculators and whichever Government is in power (through higher taxes of various sorts). This is akin to the type of thing that went on (and is still going on) in the banking industry

                • global city

                  Yes. I was thinking of the volume builders more than individual sellers. They are now that important in the market that their actions can skew the whole thing.

                • Ordinaryman

                  I agree.

          • Ordinaryman

            That’s as maybe, but, having possibly identified the problem, it’s necessary to support the view point you hold by giving a reason why you believe the problem exists and then, hopefully, offer what you believe to be an answer to it, though, I do realise that coming to any conclusion is not always possible without further discourse.

            • global city

              true enough. One thing we should all remember is the terrible quality of s much of the social housing built under those 1960s’ pledges….so bad indeed that most of it has now been demolished.

              • Ordinaryman

                I puzzle over this one; the market is usually driven by demand. The demand is there, there’s unused land from the demolition work you mention and plenty of redundant brownfield sites, but supply is not meeting the demand and is therefore, keeping the price of housing artificially high. What’s going on??

                • global city

                  Politicians benefit from the perceived ‘growth’ in the economy when property prices rise as they are doing now… and with these rises combining with a low inflation rate it serves business to wait as long as possible before building.

                  Why spend £10m now for a £15m return when you can wait 2 years, spend £10.8m on building and be able to sell them then for £18m.

                  as long as house pries outstrip inflation we are stuck with companies waiting.

                • Ordinaryman

                  I can see where you’re coming from, but is it also possible, for example, if 300,000 houses are needed and only 100000 are built that, because of the scarcity of supply forcing up prices, the profit you make on the 100000 is equal to the profit that could be made on the 300000 but, as I said previously, with less effort and investment.

    • Lady Magdalene

      We don’t have a housing shortage; we have a population explosion.
      We cannot build out way out of this all the time we have an open door to the whole of the EU and a half-open door to the rest of the world.

  • Kitty MLB

    The radicalism left with the brilliant Michael Gove, who simply
    was on the side of all children instead of the leftie dominated
    and feral establishment who were happier with the status quo
    education was slowly improving (it was always going to be slow)
    and free schools gave parents options and children the ability
    to reach their full potential.

    The BBC summed up leftie establishment when it said children
    don’t need to do well at school, there are other non academic
    things they can achieve.

    And as for Cameron..speechless.

    • southerner

      I don’t agree with you about Gove but, finally, you appear to have seen the light about Camerloon.

      • Kitty MLB

        What! I may be annoyed with Cameron but am very
        supportive of a few others.

    • SG

      I think Gove’s heart was in the right place but naive in the extreme. His policies were an open goal for anyone or group with damaging motives to take over schools with no oversight.

      He thought a bunch of middle class parents would take over schools and drive up standards. Does he not know the country we live in now? Extreme groups and greedy, fraudulent individuals and groups just made a bee-line for schools.

      • Kitty MLB

        Yes, Michael Gove’s heart was in the right place,
        I think Churchill said something like: If you have
        enemies in politics then it means you have stood
        upto something you believe in and have the guts to
        fight for whats right, regardless of it upsetting
        the comfortable status quo.

        But yes you make a point about who might run these
        free schools and it would be a hard slog to get things
        right as with most things in life.

        • telemachus associates

          Churchill also said
          Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm
          Gove must therefore be a triumphant success
          He failed the teachers
          He failed parents
          He failed children
          He failed the future of our country
          He failed Teresa May
          He failed Cameron
          It is a kindness that he was not put down

          • Span Ows

            Funnily enough – except for the Churchill quote – you’re wrong on EVERY count.

            • Kitty MLB

              Yep! Some people speak utter rubbish, do so
              far too often and too loudly. The caterwaulling
              of the left who never take responsibility for ziltch.

          • Ordinaryman

            You’re making statements again without adding any substance to support you viewpoint. It’s bloody annoying. All you’re doing is turning hot air into words.

          • global city

            How? Lay out, line by line, exactly how he failed all those people.

      • Damaris Tighe

        It’s indeed surprising as Gove wrote an excellent book describing the problems we have now, ‘Celsius 7/7′. His chapter on the dangers of Islamism was even titled ”The Trojan Horse’. That horse has certainly given him a kicking!

    • Makroon

      Perhaps you could explain the main policy differences between the “brilliant” Michael Gove and the evidently-in-your-opinion ‘less than brilliant’ Nicky Morgan ?
      Have you really bought the Labour drivel that these women lack ‘any substance’ ?
      It is pretty obvious that whilst Gove’s “shock and awe” tactics may have jolted the “blob” out of it’s complacency, it has become an impediment to winning broad support from parents (electorate).

  • HookesLaw

    I suppose having exposed her stupidity once Ms Hardman and the Speccy have to bang on about it for ever more in the hope of twisting reality to suit their stupidity. The education reforms are in place – there is just 10 months to the election, there is little more to do.
    Ms Hardman’s spoutings are total cobblers – she is reduced to rabbiting about housing starts.

    • Lady Magdalene

      “The education reforms are in place – there is just 10 months to the election, there is little more to do.”
      Oh. So it was safe for Cameron to take away a high-performing Minister and put a woman in his place because she won’t have to make any decisions or do very much …. except parrot the lines she is given and smile for the camera.
      And you wonder why his reshuffle has been branded as patronising women.

  • dado_trunking

    It comes to show just how far the bigoted far right have moved away from old and good ideas.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      It comes to show just how much a socialist nutter you are .

      How’s the goat, lad?

  • Mike Barnes

    “But it’s also difficult to imagine it because, as on education, there seems to be an appetite to proceed on a softly-softly PR-led basis.”

    The Coalition likes to talk about #toughdecisions and #longtermeconomic plans but it’s all nonsense. I mean the example they always give is reforming welfare but that was incredibly popular and hurts only a small percentage of the population, cutting it wasn’t tough, it was remarkably easy.

    Genuinely tough decisions like housing, Heathrow, NHS funding and energy use have all been booted into touch for somebody else to deal with at some other point in time.

    • HookesLaw

      NHS funding has not been booted into touch. The NHS is going through a 4 year 20 billion savings programme right now.

    • LarryH77

      If they wanted to slash welfare (housing benefit) they would have built a million council houses. Instead we got the Bedroom Tax and Help-To-Buy.

      Usually when governments are bold (going to war, changing leaders, etc) they receive a huge boost in the polls… Those pension changes was clearly seen as huge vote winner but any boost was tiny and has already evaporated.

      • SG

        Yep they’ve just made right to buy easier and most of those will now become private buy to lets, funded by taxpayers to pay far higher rents, and the benefit bill goes ever upwards.

        Building houses would cut the £25 billion annual housing benefit bill substantially.

  • Adrian Drummond

    One of the more dispiriting things I’ve noticed this week is how a number of important stories have been downgraded – the Data Retention Bill and Cameron meeting Juncker, to name but two.

    • HookesLaw

      The data retention bill is not an important story.

      • Adrian Drummond

        Clearly, only for those – like you – who don’t understand it. How many do you need to be told? if you had the intellectual acumen, you’d already have figured this out.

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