Look Left – Cameron’s reshuffle, Balls and Cable, and Obama and Clinton

Shamik Das looks back at the week’s politics, including our progressive, regressive and evidence of the week.


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• David Cameron reshuffled his cabinet this week, chopping away some dead wood, leaving some in place and promoting some.

The biggest Tory risers were Jeremy Hunt from culture to health, Chris Grayling from employment minister to justice secretary, Patrick McLoughlin from Chief Whip to transport, Grant Shapps from housing minister to Tory party chair, and Andrew Mitchell from DFID to Chief Whip.

For the Lib Dems, David Laws makes a welcome return from the backbenches to an exciting new joint role at education and the Cabinet Office, able to attend cabinet and part of the new “Sextet” – the Quad plus himself and Oliver Letwin.

Sliding back down the ladder, meanwhile, are Andrew Lansley, from health to leader of the house, Ken Clarke, from justice to minister without portfolio, Justine Greening, from transport to DFID, Sayeeda Warsi, from Tory co-chair to foreign office minister, and Caroline Spelman and Cheryl Gillan, axed completely as environment and Wales secretaries.

Reaction has been mixed, from disinterest from parts of the right to disdain from some on the left, best summed up by the reshuffle must-reads in the Sundays from Matthew D’Ancona in The Sunday Telegraph on the PM’s “Twitter reshuffle” and Andrew Rawnsley in The Observer on DC’s “masterclass in how not to conduct a reshuffle”.

On Left Foot Forward this week, we’ve looked at the legacies of some of those leaving their portfolios, and the challenges faced by some of their successors, at health, housing, transport, communities, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Department for International Development (DFID).

Unsurprisingly, the reshuffle (specifically the non-reshuffling of George Osborne) dominated this week’s PMQs clash between Cameron and Ed Miliband, the first since the summer – watch it here.

• Policy-wise this week, once more the battleground was growth, business and the economy – with Vince Cable at the centre of events.

The business secretary, fresh from a renewed wave of love-bombing by Ed Miliband and Ed Balls, today said he would work with Labour on increasing taxes on the wealthiest, and reiterated his opposition to no-fault dismissal – stances certain to rile his Conservative coalition colleagues.

Responding to Balls’s overtures, he told The Andrew Marr Show:

“I have chemistry with lots of people in public life – that’s being grown up. I am very happy to talk to Ed; I talk to my Conservative colleagues in government in an equally businesslike way.

“I like working with intelligent people with strong views. It makes politics more interesting. I have got David Willetts who is very, very able and likeable Conservative. We work well together. I know I will with the new team.”

Earlier, Balls wrote in the Sunday Mirror of his desire to “work with other parties, including sensible people in the government” in search of a “bold plan to get our economy moving”. The shadow chancellor sounded positive about Cable’s ‘mansion tax’ plans and called for politicians to “work together on new ideas to create jobs and build our way out of recession”.

Cable will launch the coalition’s industrial strategy in London on Tuesday, with the government set to pledge millions of pounds of support for key industries in the latest attempt to answer demands for a clear growth strategy.

Elsewhere this week on the economy, read our reports on the fresh fears of a “23-year slump” as David Cameron is set to borrow double what Gordon Brown was, here; read about the latest impact of the economic crisis on Londoners, here; read shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna make the case for an active government and modern industrial policy, here; and, ahead of the TUC conference, read our report from the European TUC, here.

• Internationally, with the US Presidential elections now less than two months away, all eyes were on Charlotte, North Carolina, for the Democratic National Convention.

Check out our first-hand reports of President Obama’s acceptance speech, in which he made the strong, serious, sober case for re-election, here, and of former President Bill Clinton’s electrifying speech which fired up the Democrats, giving the best defence yet of the past four years, here, and read our analysis on “Economy, money and demography: Which will provide the key to the White House?”, here.

From tomorrow on Left Foot Forward, right up until polling day, we will have twice-weekly ‘state of the race’ election digests, and weekly columns from the States on the key issue of the week, and how it shapes (and is shaped by) the demographic and electoral colleges.

Progressives of the week:

The Paralympics crowds, who spoke for Britain this week by booing George Osborne (and Jeremy Hunt). The chancellor humiliated by a packed 80,000-capacity Stratford Olympic Stadium when introduced to the crowd at the presentation ceremony for the men’s T38 class 400m. Meanwhile, Gordon Brown was cheered at the medal ceremony for the 4x100m freestyle relay.

Watch the videos here.

Regressive of the week:

SNP leader and Scottish first minister Alex Salmond, who conducted his own reshuffle this week, accused variously of having “lost touch” and of being “more interested in running the referendum than running the country”.

Read more on ‘Salmond shuffle’ here, and the latest warnings on the state of the Scottish economy here.

Evidence of the week:

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) report, “The Cost of a Child in the 21st Century” (pdf), released this week, which calculated the cost of bringing up a child at more than £140,000 from birth to 18, with recent increases in the cost of childcare, food and transport outstripping headline inflation.

Read report author Donald Hirsch’s blog for Left Foot Forward here, including tables and graphs.

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