David Cameron completed a major Cabinet reshuffle yesterday that resulted in replacing thirteen members of the government. Among the more notable changes, William Hague was replaced by Philip Hammond as Foreign Secretary and will now fill the position of Leader of the Commons, and Michael Gove was moved from heading the Department of Education to the position of Chief Whip.
Charles Moore declares it to be “the worst reshuffle in 25 years”:
Unlike that one [in 1989], its errors are unforced. This year, David Cameron had established a surprisingly strong position as the leader whose unpopular but necessary policies were starting to work. He and his team seemed steadier and more able than their opponents. Now he has thrown that away with changes so large that he looks as if he disrespects what he has achieved.
He has singled out for punishment those ministers who were brave and active — most notably Michael Gove and Owen Paterson, demoting the first and sacking the second. Thus he emboldens all those pressure groups who hate the Tories and sends out a message that no one who wants a ministerial career should have a serious interest in his or her subject. He has also target-bombed his party’s natural supporters — rural voters, Eurosceptics, non-greens and people who are out of sympathy with his metropolitan preoccupations.
That seems partly right, and it sounds like just the sort of thing one would expect from Cameron. Then again, Hammond is reputed to be more of a Euroskeptic than Hague, and someone who has expressed support for British withdrawal from the EU unless significant changes are made. The impression that Britain will now take a harder line on Europe seems to be widely shared. The Financial Times reports:
Philip Hammond’s replacement of William Hague as foreign secretary will generate some alarm in Europe. True, the move was forced by Mr Hague’s personal wish to leave politics. But Mr Hammond is a more hardened eurosceptic than his predecessor and has stated that he would vote to leave the EU if substantial powers are not returned to the UK. He will set a higher threshold for a successful renegotiation of Britain’s membership than the man he replaces.