MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph).
The reshuffle is underway and seeping out. There is much excitement, but only because it’s Dave’s first, not because it will be a big one. With luck there will be a surprise, and most reshuffles always have an unexpected moment, usually when a minister refuses to budge. To recap the moves so far, reported and speculated:
– Sayeeda Warsi has outed herself, as it were, on Twitter, and is no longer Tory chairman. We don’t yet know whether she gets something else.
– Today says Kenneth Clarke is out as Justice Secretary. Rumours are flying that he’s to become a minister without portfolio with an emphasis on economy. How will that work?
– I gather Eric Pickles joined the Quad to discuss planning yesterday afternoon, so presumably he isn’t going anywhere.
– The papers seem certain David Laws will get Sarah Teather’s slot at Education, with a roving brief (whether she gets something in return is unclear). Apparently there was a dispute with Nick Clegg over whether he could have an extra minister or had to make room for Mr Laws.
– Nick Boles has cancelled a speech today, encouraging speculation that he will be promoted. Matt Hancock is mentioned, of course.
– ‘Thrasher’ Mitchell was confirmed as Chief Whip – the joy! – by No 10 last night. “George gets his chief whip,” the Guardian reports, reflecting Thrasher’s proximity to the Chancellor. Mr Mitchell (or, as some Tory MPs are already calling him, Christian Grey) famously invited Mr Osborne to dinner at the height of the leadership campaign when he was running David Davis’ doomed operation (one minister told me disobligingly yesterday that DD would have done better without Mr Mitchell in charge). ConHome seem pleased. Co-editor Paul Goodman says Dave is right to “restore the firepower” to the Whips Office. The FT headline describes him as “Popular choice” and “widely respected”, which is one way of putting it.
– In the self-reshuffling department, Zac Goldsmith has promised to resign and force a by-election if the Government changes course on Heathrow.
– The Times reports that this morning’s Cabinet has been cancelled, to allow Mr Cameron to make his moves.
– Various names touted for chairman: Grant ‘Michael Green’ Shapps, of course, but also Jeremy Hunt.
– The fate of Justine Greening is one to watch: Patrick McLoughlin is being tipped to replace her, so where does she go? Out altogether? Bit harsh?
– It also seems Caroline Spelman was told last night that it’s over for her. And there’s a consensus forming around the departure of Andrew Lansley.
You can follow the events as they happen today on our live blog here.
Meanwhile, Dave’s proposed reforms to planning law are already starting to backfire. Malcolm Sharp, the president of the Planning Officers’ Society, told us that the Government has misjudged the problem: the economy – not red tape – is the obstacle to building more homes.
And that’s not the only hiccup. The FT reports that Eric Pickles is making noises too. His spokesman said yesterday that changes to the greenbelt were permitted only in “exceptional circumstances”, which doesn’t sound very radical. But if the speculation is correct, he’s radical enough for Dave.
THE PRICE OF UNPOPULARITY
His advisers were a bit nervous about it and with hindsight it was an obvious risk, but the Chancellor will be smarting from his reception at the Paralympics yesterday (you can watch it here ). It’s a good thing Mr Osborne has a realistic view of his popularity. As he explained on Marr on Sunday, it would be odd if he wasn’t the most unpopular politician in Britain. So you could argue that the more he is booed, the more he is doing a good job on the austerity front. If only it were that simple…
It’s worth noting that Alan Duncan is backing the burglar shooters. Bold and will go down well with the grassroots. Not sure I can imagine the PM saying the same, though. You can read more here.
The Lib Dems will note two polls today in the Independent and Sun that suggest the party would do better if Vince Cable was in charge instead of Nick Clegg. But not by much. YouGov in the Sun says the party would go from 8 per cent to – wait for it – 11 per cent, while ComRes in the Indy says rating would go from 14 per cent to 18 per cent, enough to take it from 23 to 39 seats.
And finally, the Greens unveiled their new leader: Natalie Bennett, an Australian-born former Guardian journalist and United Nations advisor. She boasts that she’s the only party leader who can shear sheep – just what we’ve always wanted. More information is available in the Indy here.
TWEETS AND TWITS
“@tom_watson: Hi @louisemensch – how’s it feel being free?! Just wondering – is it your pic on the side of this toolkit? http://www.howtowriteanewsletter.com/newcomer26.php”
If only it had been one of Grant Shapps’s – sorry, I mean, Michael Green’s – toolkits.
Latest ComRes/Independent polling: Conservatives 35%, Labour 42%, Lib Dems 12%, Others 11%
In The Telegraph
Mary Riddell: The cracks between Ed Miliband and Ed Balls could swallow Labour’s hopes
Liz Truss: We must shift science out of the geek ghetto
Leader: Mr Cameron’s old rival shows him the way
Leader: Still not fit for purpose
Best of the rest
Steve Richards in the Independent: It’s not the names that matter but the policies
Rachel Sylvester in the Times: Game changer? No, more an echo chamber
Polly Toynbee in the Guardian: These angry Tories can’t see what ‘no alternative’ means
Jana Ganesh in the Financial Times: Time for Britain to rediscover the art of coalition
Today: Theresa May will make an announcement on police pension reform
Today: Alan Duncan will attend a Friends of Yemen meeting in Saudi Arabia
Today: Agriculture and Food Minister Jim Paice will announce measures to help farmers
2.30pm: Foreign Office questions