Image description: Boris Johnson holds a Cabinet meeting
It must be difficult being Boris Johnson. For our would-be World King, a Cabinet reshuffle is a delicate balance. The Prime Minister has to traverse a narrow tight rope: he must not promote anyone too talented that could make him look bad in comparison, but he must also remove those who are so incompetent that he is caught in the crossfire. Fortunately for him, the former are in short supply whilst the latter are in abundance.
This reshuffle is less of an opportunity for reform and innovation, and instead essentially a bin day for Downing Street’s most useless ministers. There is no vision behind Johnson’s new Cabinet, instead merely a grab bag of fresh faced sycophants who have yet to have the opportunity to humiliate themselves and this country. Despite the Tories constantly banging on about a mystical meritocracy, Johnson operates the complete opposite. This is a Cabinet governed by bullshitocracy, where talent is perceived as threatening whilst comfortable amateurism is rewarded.
“This reshuffle is less of an opportunity for reform and innovation, and instead essentially a bin day for Downing Street’s most useless ministers…”
Of the notable removals in the reshuffle; Big Beast Dominic Raab was downgraded from Foreign Secretary to Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor, and Secretary of State for Justice – a title so long and meaningless it would make Kim Jong Un blush. Raab’s demotion was driven by his response to the Afghanistan crisis, where he extended his holiday in Crete for two days despite Kabul falling to the Taliban on his watch. Raab crucially failed to make decisive phone calls to his Afghan counterparts to ensure translators could be evacuated, delegating this to a junior minister. Even in a government as shameless as Johnson’s, this was surreal in its barefaced incompetence.
Raab has been replaced by Liz Truss who as Trade Secretary spent the last two years as the cheerleader of ‘Global Britain’. In 2016, Truss was a fervent Remainer, tweeting during the referendum that the Leave campaign ‘…cannot name one country we would get a better trade deal with if we left the EU’. Fortunately for Truss, principles are for the birds in Johnson’s government, and Conservative Party members have memories worse than goldfish. By wrapping herself in the Union Jack and replicating trade deals that Britain already had in the EU, Truss has captured the hearts and minds of Tory faithful. Truss is the perfect ambassador for Brexit Britain, wallpapering over this country’s decline through slogans, memes, and viral tweets. Social media is the driving force for this Cabinet reshuffle; it is not about the minister’s achievements but their online appearance that is the key.
“Fortunately for Truss, principles are for the birds in Johnson’s government, and Conservative Party members have memories worse than goldfish.”
Alongside Raab, Johnson has thankfully also made Education Secretary Gavin Williamson ‘go away and shut up’. Williamson embodied the Conservative dream of continually failing upwards. As Education Secretary, Williamson oversaw the 2020 exams debacle, implementing a failed algorithm to assess GCSEs and A-Levels. Williamson also repeatedly failed to provide COVID-19 safety measures in schools, ignoring repeated warnings of the necessity of ventilation in schools throughout the pandemic. SAGE repeatedly expressed the importance of ventilation, in November 2020 and February 2021, with these messages falling on deaf ears.
Perhaps most embarrassingly, Williamson recently stated he had spoken to English football player Marcus Rashford on a Zoom meeting when in reality he had spoken to rugby player Maro Itoje, confusing two black players who look nothing alike and play different sports. Gavin Williamson is a minister almost impressively stupid, and so out of touch that he makes one long for the good old days of Chris Grayling.
As a student, the future seems particularly bleak. University students have always been at the back of the queue throughout the pandemic. Only a week ago, Williamson gave a speech attacking universities for ‘cancelling national heroes’ instead of focussing on the lives of students and teachers. This government has never taken the concerns of students seriously throughout the pandemic; villainizing them as ‘snowflakes’ in the culture war. The new Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi does not provide much hope either, referring to meaningless soundbites in his opening speech like ‘levelling up’ instead of providing substantial answers.
Johnson has also elevated Nadine Dorries to become Culture Secretary, or in reality the front-line commander of the nonsense culture wars. Dorries is a best-selling author, acclaimed by critics including Christopher Howse of the Daily Telegraph who described Dorries’ book The Four Streets as ‘the worst novel I’ve read in ten years’. Dorries’ supports a ban on the burkha, opposed gay marriage, and advocates sexual abstinence for girls in sexual education. It’s clear that Dorries will make an effective Culture Secretary; unfortunately for the nation, that culture is the 1920s.
“Johnson has also elevated Nadine Dorries to become Culture Secretary, or in reality the front-line commander of the nonsense culture wars.”
A recently resurfaced tweet by Dorries referred to ‘left wing snowflakes… killing comedy, tearing down historic statues, removing books from universities… and suppressing free speech’. This denigration of students’ attitudes and voices across the new Cabinet is depressing but unsurprising. The Culture Secretary is an increasingly important post – with the minister not only having a remit over the future of the BBC but also shaping the state’s relationship with the arts, the theatre, and the media broadly. Having a right-wing zealot like Dorries in charge is a threat to us all.
Also making a move is Michael Gove who as Minister of Housing, Communities and Local Government is in charge with solving the UK’s housing crisis and implementing planning reforms. Gove’s mission to meet the government’s target of constructing 300,000 houses a year may face some difficulties. In Gove’s constituency alone, the minister objected to a planned housing development for 1,500 homes only two years ago. But then again, if you aren’t a hypocrite are you truly a Johnson Cabinet Minister?
Recently resurfaced audio of Michael Gove has been discovered, with Gove describing those colonised by the British Empire as ‘fuzzy wuzzies’ and stating that gay people ‘thrive primarily on short-term relationships’ The fact that Gove is the longest serving Cabinet Minister, having held seven different ministerial posts in the last eleven years, and is seen as a bedrock of the Party is beyond depressing.
The Conservatives have been in power for eleven years; they leave behind a legacy of corruption, incompetence, botched reforms and U-turns. And yet they keep winning. Keir Starmer’s Labour repeatedly and miserably fails to cut through. Starmer’s supposedly important policy speech at the TUC on Tuesday was overshadowed by a Twitter fight between Chris Whitty and Nicki Minaj – the Tories simply dominate the news agenda with ease. This reshuffle proves that they are not trying anymore, and they know they don’t have to. It would take an economic miracle for Labour to win the next election. The next decade is the Tories to lose, try as they might.
Image Credit: Number10 on Flickr.com