Cabinet reshuffle: Theresa May attempts to take back control, but nothing has really changed
By Daniel J. McLaughlin
The recent political decisions in Britain have revolved around the idea of control, and the urge to take it back.
When just over half the country voted to leave the EU, it was meant to return sovereignty back to the British parliament - and take back control.
As the talks progress at a snail's pace, and the British negotiators on the back foot, there is no doubt to whom the control belongs. When Theresa May called a snap general election, she wanted to improve her slim majority in the Commons and secure a strong mandate - she tried, and failed, to take back control.
Facing an emboldened opposition and aggrieved colleagues, the beleaguered prime minister wants to take back control of her minority government. A cabinet reshuffle, Westminster's pantomime production, gives Mrs May the opportunity to appear to take back control - as long as she doesn't miss her cues and the stage set doesn't fall around her (again).
And, of course, that's exactly what happened.
Chris Grayling's tenure as the Conservative Party chairman lasted just under a minute, after the Tory Twitter page prematurely announced his appointment - and then swiftly deleted the photograph posted on their official account. Brandon Lewis was seen entering 10 Downing Street soon after the botched tweet, and within an hour he was announced as party chairman and Minister without Portfolio - replacing Sir Patrick McLoughlin. Or the Minister without the letter "t" in Portfolio after the Downing Street Twitter account misspelled his new job title - and then re-posted a correct version.
When they finally got round to announcing the reshuffle correctly, it proved to be not much of a reshuffle at all. Senior cabinet members remain in place, including Chancellor Philip Hammond, Amber Rudd, the home secretary, David Davis, the Brexit secretary, and Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary.
Justine Greening resigned from the government after the prime minister attempted to move her from her post as education secretary to work and pensions. She reportedly "dug in her heels during two and a half hours inside Downing Street, refusing the new role", according to the Telegraph. Ms Greening will be succeeded by Damian Hinds, who was promoted from being a junior work and pensions minister.
Following Damien Green's resignation last month, former justice secretary David Lidington was appointed as the minister for the Cabinet Office. He did not, however, take over Mr Green's previous role as the first secretary of state - it is believed that the prime minister will not appoint anyone to the position of her de facto deputy. Mr Lidington also becomes the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, replacing Sir Patrick. Former work and pensions secretary David Gauke takes on Mr Lidington's previous job as justice secretary.
Jeremy Hunt was tipped to move sideways to a different department, with his unpopularity and the NHS winter crisis haunting the health secretary. He has, however, stayed in the job - with a new responsibility for social care.
The Sun's political editor Tom Newton Dunn calls it "the reshuffle's biggest shock", as Mr Hunt was expected to emerge from Downing Street as the new business secretary. He reports that the health secretary refused a move to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and insisted on a "beefed up brief of social care too". Greg Clark stays on as Business Secretary.
The name change for Mr Hunt could be cosmetic, according to Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb. He served as a social care minister in the department under the coalition government. The North Norfolk MP tweeted: "So what does the new title of Sec of State for Health and Social Care actually mean? I was Minister responsible for social care IN Health Department in 2015 so unless they are proposing change to funding of social care, this looks like window dressing."
Sajid Javid, who was rumoured for the chop, has seen his role changed from communities and local government to include housing.
James Brokenshire has stepped down as Northern Ireland secretary for health reasons. It is understood he requires surgery for a lung condition, the BBC reports. He is replaced by Karen Bradley, who has relinquished her role as culture secretary. There was a promotion for Matt Hancock, who moved up from his job as digital minister to replace Mrs Bradley.
The Daily Mail argues that Mrs May is at the risk of falling flat following the 'reshuffle'. The prime minister was expected "to carry out a major overhaul to assert her authority", but she has made just a series of limited changes. They bemoan the fact that the cabinet is still "male and pale", with no 'female-focused' reshuffle after promoting just one woman (Mrs Bradley).
There is a tendency to use campaign slogans and quotes from Theresa May against the prime minister - whether it is "strong and stable leadership" proving otherwise after the general election, or the "magic money tree" spouting leaves when the Tories needed the DUP to prop up their government. For the reshuffle that wasn't really a reshuffle, and the prime minister failing to take back control once again, the image of Mrs May flapping "Nothing has changed! Nothing has changed!" after the social care U-turn comes to mind. Nothing has changed for the beleaguered Tory leader, and that's exactly the problem with her premiership.