Wednesday, September 5, 2012

(Opinion) Coalition government cabinet reshuffle: why is George Osborne still in office?

While the world is full of things that are beyond comprehension, George Osborne remaining as Chancellor of the Exchequer after the cabinet reshuffle has just joined the ranks. In the government’s recent cabinet reshuffle there has been some strange and expected changes such as the demotion of Ken Clarke (expected) and promotion of Jeremy Hunt to health secretary (strange) but why Prime Minster David Cameron has not thrown George Osborne a break and move him to a position closer to the PM office is very strange given the calls across the political spectrum to bench him or move him out of the treasury.

Perhaps it is because he believes in the programme currently in place at the treasury as he hasn’t failed to move out minsters who don’t agree him on key issues such as Kenneth Clarke and Justine Greening (the latter of which has sparked a major rift within the conservative party[1]) or ministers who have performed poorly such as Andrew Lansley. The fact that George Osborne remains in office reveals not only move to the right in the cabinet[2]   but a preference for loyalty over performance.

While George Osborne did not inherit an economy in great shape, his implementation of trademark conservative policies has done him and the coalition government in general no favours. George Osborne budgets have made large cuts in taxes, housing and education while presiding over Britain’s continuous slide into a double dip recession. However his performance is really the problem so much as his unpopularity with only 34% of the British thinks George Osborne is “doing a good job”[3].

The lack of change in the cabinet reshuffle, at least in positions that are key to the implementation of conservative policies, represents an assertion of a prime minster determined to get rid of the well earned tag of being government of that has only mastered the art of the u-turn. However as a result of this, the government’s main opposition to this assertion in policy will be the conservatives as the government is already receiving criticism for its changes in the cabinet. London Mayor Boris Johnson was quick to denounce the removal of Justine greening from the position of transport secretary due to her opposition to the addition of a third runway at Heathrow describing her as a “first rate Transport Secretary”[4].

In sum, David Cameron may be a conservative prime minster but has revealed his allegiance to his allies amenable to favoured policies rather to efficient and effective governance. While no one in politics expects a politician not to turn to his cronies in a time of need, for it to be done so openly for all to see is what gives reason for criticism. Geroge Osborne is a prime example of this criticism as he has performed poorly and is highly unpopular yet manages to stay in the cabinet despite his strengths is in political rather than economic strategy.   

[1] H. Siddique, 2012, Heathrow runway row: Cameron flies into storm of Tory criticism,
[2] P. Wintour and N. Watt, 2012,  David Cameron’s right turn in cabinet reshuffle,
[3] P. Kellner, 2012,Budget hurts Tories but doesn’t help Labour,
[4] Quoted by P. Wintour and N. Watts, 2012, David Cameron’s right turn in cabinet reshuffle,

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