I don’t know about you, but I found El Gordo’s government reshuffle somewhat underwhelming. It surely says something about the poverty of talent at the top of New Labour that he’s bringing into the cabinet fresh young faces like, well, Glenys Kinnock. Not to mention Peter Vain’s return to the Welsh Office, his little expenses difficulty by now forgiven and forgotten.
And the appointment of Alan Sugar as “enterprise czar”, which no doubt means next year’s Apprentice contestants will have to call him “your czarship”, looks to me like the act of a desperate man. The only wonder is that we didn’t see Joanna Lumley brought into the Ministry of Defence, or TV’s Gene Hunt to the Home Office.
As it is, what we’ve got at the Home Office is Postman Pat, in a transparently Machiavellian move. What Gordon knows is that no politician since Douglas Hurd, a generation ago, has emerged from the Home Office looking remotely good. It will surely be the death of Alan (TM) Johnson, unless he can assassinate Gordon in short order.
On the other hand, there was one element of the reshuffle that I thought El Gordo handled rather well, though such is the herd mentality of the press that this too has been spun as a sign of crisis. I am of course referring to the downfall of fruity Europe minister Caroline Flint, who, notwithstanding her feminist posturing, seems determined to act up to a 1950s stereotype and prove sexist men’s point about what happens when you put women in positions of power.
Time was when far too few women rose to positions of prominence in politics, even in the Labour Party, but those who did – think of Barbara Castle or Gwyneth Dunwoody – were figures of substance that you would fail to take seriously at your peril. And, although I’m very much in favour of having more women in politics, it’s noteworthy that many of the quota-driven Blair Babes (and remember that Cameron is trying something similar with Tory candidates’ lists) have been of almost comical ineptitude. Wacky Jacqui Smith, the worst Home Secretary in living memory, is a textbook case of someone wildly overpromoted for box-ticking purposes. Ms Flint has escaped the same sort of scrutiny, partly through the good luck of not being posted to the Home Office, but also by being serially overpraised by the media. Nor is it coincidental that much of this praise has come from male journalists more interested in Ms Flint’s sex appeal than her questionable political abilities. In fact she’s consciously played up to that so blatantly that I’m amazed she hasn’t yet done a Nuts shoot.
So, in the last week, we had Caroline’s bessie mates in the government, Jacqui and Hazel, not only resigning but doing so in the closing stages of an election campaign, in a way calculated to do maximum damage to the Labour Party. There was speculation that Caroline would resign in solidarity with her friends. But, at a time when even the boy Purnell was showing unexpected signs of possessing a backbone, she stayed put, being ostentatiously loyal to El Gordo.
And now, thanks to her remarkable petulant letter of resignation, we know why. She had been ostentatiously loyal in the hope that, with a reshuffle coming up and some prominent women departing, the boss would recognise her outstanding attributes and finally give her that cabinet position she’s been long angling for. No such luck, though. It turns out that macho man Gordon only has eyes for Ed Balls. So, having stabbed her sisters in the back to no avail, she’s not talking to that nasty man any more.
Thanks a bunch, Caroline. You’ve really made the case for the all-women shortlist right there. Not to mention confirming Gordon’s assessment of your abilities.
Rud eile: Nice to see the Mebyon Kernow comrades doing rather well in the locals.