THE simple fact that Theresa May is starting the New Year by reshuffling her Cabinet on her terms reflects her greater authority after successfully concluding the first phase of Brexit negotiations – she was too weak to do so following the election or the Ministerial resignations at the end of last year.
It’s also a reminder that domestic policy, and the daily concerns of residents, matters just as much, if not more so, as Brexit, this Government’s defining issue, and Mrs May did not appear to grasp the scale of misgivings about the NHS, economy, transport and crime during her BBC interview with Andrew Marr.
After all, Mrs May called a snap election last year to secure a greater mandate for Brexit – and promptly lost her majority, and much credibility, because the Tories were unable to portray themselves as the party of progress on the home front.
That said, there does need to be purpose behind the Prime Minister’s planned changes. She should only appoint individuals to roles where they can make a genuine difference – and have the ability to reach out to Opposition parties on long-term issues, like social care and housing, that require a national consensus.
Mrs May should also take the opportunity to elevate the role of Northern Powerhouse Minister to the Cabinet to send out a signal that she is a One Nation leader who is committed to narrowing the North-South divide. The worry is the reported casualties could include Education Secretary Justine Greening and Business Secretary Greg Clark. Though they represent seats in the South, they were born in Rotherham and Middlesbrough respectively and genuinely understand the myriad policy challenges facing this region and know, for example, that the return of grammar schools is misguided.
Just because they’re more quietly spoken, more consensual and less combative than their colleagues should not make them bad ministers – and Mrs May needs to heed this if her new-found and hard-earned authority is to be used wisely.