Opinion: Cabinet reshuffle 'disaster' for Theresa May's leadership

Credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire
Credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

Dr Sophia Price, the Head of Politics and International Relations at Leeds Beckett University, writes about the Government's Cabinet reshuffle.

"The reshuffle has been disastrous for May’s leadership.

"Even though it was designed to be fairly modest in its intentions, it was presented as a moment when the Prime Minister would place her mark on the government, bringing in a more diverse cabinet and providing the public and her party a much-needed display of strength and leadership.

"However for May this has turned out to be quite the opposite. It’s important to remember that the reshuffle has been prompted by a number of fairly high profile losses, including the sacking of Damien Green and the resignations by both Priti Patel and Michael Fallon.

"However the remit of the changes remained relatively narrow as it became apparent that key figures, such as Boris Johnson, would not be moved in spite of some fairly damaging criticism of his role as Foreign Secretary.

"The strength of May’s leadership was further undermined yesterday when Jeremy Hunt was able to resist a move from his post as Health Secretary, in spite of a winter NHS crisis which has seen routine operations cancelled and public about the capacity of the health service to deal with the demands placed on it.

"That ministers were able to resist moves and undermine the PM’s decision-making authority has done little to bolster her position, both in relation to her party and with the public.

"The appointment of Toby Young to the Office for Students has also proved to be an embarrassment for the Prime Minister.

"Now following Young’s resignation, and in order to re-install some leadership over the matter, May has removed Jo Johnson from his role as University’s Minister.

"In terms of the reshuffle’s diversity agenda, May was dealt a blow by the resignation of Justine Greening as education secretary.

"Not only was Greening an experienced member of the cabinet, but as an openly gay, female MP her loss is something of a backwards step.

"That has to some extent been balanced by the appointments made in the second day of the reshuffle, which did include a number of women and people from diverse backgrounds, which is to be welcomed.

"However the appointment of Maria Caulfield, as the Conservative Party’s vice chair for women, is something that has caused concern among women’s groups, following her opposition to

a bill to change the law in relation to abortion.

"As a new start for a new year, Mrs May’s reshuffle has done little to garner support for her leadership both within her party and within the wider public, nor to bolster her position in a year

when the government will be facing huge pressures as it tries to navigate its way through challenges at home and difficult negotiations with the EU.

"May has bolstered the position of Brexiteers, with the appointment of Suella Fernandes to the Department for Exiting the EU.

"However the loss of Greening, a keen remainer, to the back benches (and possibly boosting the pro-EU ‘mutineers’) might pose particular and ongoing difficulties for May."