LIKE the very limited reshuffle after the resignation of the disgraced Sir Michael Fallon as Defence Secretary, Theresa May did not feel she had the scope, or authority, to undertake far-reaching changes after Priti Patel – the International Development Secretary – became the second casualty of the past week.
Yet the plain fact of the matter that the appointment of Penny Mordaunt in place of the now departed Ms Patel is not going to restore the public’s faltering faith in the Government.
Of course Mrs May’s many dilemmas are not helped by her Brexit balancing act; a ‘make-or-break’ Budget on November 22 and the ongoing sleaze inquiry involving her deputy Damian Green.
That said, the delay appointing Ms Mordaunt to one of the Cabinet’s lesser roles was unhelpful – it created another vacuum – as Europe’s leaders prepare for the possibility that Mrs May’s government could fall imminently. Though the wish of most Tory MPs is that the Prime Minister survives until after Britain leaves the EU in March 2019, many accept that the current malaise cannot continue.
As one backbencher told The Yorkshire Post: “Half of the Cabinet could go – and no one would notice. We need some vroom, vroom, vroom.” They’re right. Most of Mrs May’s team, with the exception of David Davis, Amber Rudd, Justine Greening and Greg Clark, are on borrowed time and it’s time the Cabinet’s ‘has-beens’ were replaced by more dynamic and savvy Ministers.
Mrs May should also follow David Cameron’s example and have weekly – possibly daily – meetings with her top Ministers.
The Tory coalition with the Lib Dems did last because of the so-called ‘quad’ in which Mr Cameron and George Osborne met with Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander. The resulting rapport meant they could foresee difficulties and plan ahead.
And, while she’s fortunate that there’s no obvious successor, Theresa May needs to decide how best to make a difference while she’s still in office. If there’s greater clarity of purpose, basic decision-making might – just – become more competent and buy the Government some respite.