Tories shuffle to the right

by Daphne Liddle

DAVID Cameron is desperate. The popularity of his Con-Dem Coalition is plummeting and the state of the economy is getting worse. So he has reshuffled his Cabinet, taking it further to the right with fewer women, fewer from ethnic minorities and fewer Liberal Democrats.

The main architects of this government’s failures — Chancellor John Osborne, Foreign Secretary William Hague, Home Secretary Theresa May, Business Secretary Vincent Cable and of course Cameron himself — remain in place.

Andrew Lansley, who drafted and fought a two-year battle to get his controversial total restructuring of the NHS through both Houses of Parliament, has been removed. But he is replaced by Jeremy Hunt, famous for being very close friends with the Murdoch empire.

The giant union Unite expressed hopes that the removal of Andrew Lansley from the Department of Health “gives an opportunity for a complete re-think on the future of the NHS”.

Unite’s head of health, Rachael Maskell said: “Jeremy Hunt as the new Health Secretary has a real opportunity to ride the public mood and ensure the NHS remains a universal service, free at the point of delivery to all those in need.”

But the union’s optimism is misplaced. In 2009 the Daily Mirror reported: “David Cameron's claim to back the NHS was shot down again yesterday as more Tories attacked our healthcare system. “Three of his Shadow Cabinet — Michael Gove, Greg Clark and Jeremy Hunt — called for the health service to be dismantled. They claimed it was "no longer relevant" in a book, Direct Democracy, co-authored with Tory MEP Daniel Hannan.

“Mr Hannan sparked outrage last week by calling the NHS a ‘60year-old mistake’ on US TV.”

Hunt, it seems, is being brought in to finish the job of killing the NHS — or at least doing as much damage as he can in the time the Tories have left before the next election.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg cannot be feeling happy after Cameron removed some of the key Lib-Dems but he is still swearing loyalty to alliance with the Tories.

Clegg claims that the coalition "remains anchored in the centre ground". Answering questions at a school in East London, he said: "We've got a coalition agreement which is there, which is a tablet of stone setting out what we are going to do. That is not going to change."

That won’t please his dwindling band of followers who are already considering changing their leadership amid rumours that Clegg himself may jump ship and join the Tories to keep his job of deputy premier.

Cameron it seems has given up on appeasing the Lib Dems and is just racing to get as much as he can through Parliament before the coalition and his majority in the House crumble from under him.

The other big indication of this reshuffle is the removal of Tory MP Justine Greening from the position of Transport Secretary, a sign that the Tories are rethinking their manifesto pledge not to build a third runway at Heathrow.

The Government is also under renewed pressure from the City and other vested interests to increase airport capacity in the South East by expanding Heathrow. But fears about increased noise and traffic pollution have made this deeply unpopular with voters in west London and neither the Lib-Dems nor Justine Greening, whose Putney constituency would be affected, would be likely to back any plans for a third runway.

But Cameron’s rival, London Mayor Boris Johnson, clearly thinks a U-turn is in the offing. He is delivering daily attacks on the Tory leader, accusing Cameron of being a mouse and pushing forward his own pet scheme for a new London air terminal in the Thames estuary.

This will never happen, firstly because of the astronomical costs involved and secondly because of the SS Richard Montgomery — a sunken Second World War ammunition ship in the area containing enough explosives — in a very fragile condition — to blow up the Isle of Sheppey on the north Kent coast and parts of south Essex.

Another change is that Paul Deighton has been appointed Minister with Responsibility for Economic Delivery — in other words an assistant to George Osborne to help him with the logistics of investing in infrastructure projects to try to revive the economy.

Deighton was once a Goldman Sachs executive and has recently made a good job of running LOCOG, which organised the Olympic Games.

He will probably find that trying to organise Osborne and Cameron into any sort of economic competence is a more than Olympian task.

So Cameron has not made any significant policy changes, just made more extreme the policies that have already led to economic disaster.

We cannot wait for his government to collapse on its own. The organised working class of this country must redouble efforts to bring it down as soon as possible.