The PM's que guapo moment.
16 Jul 2014 at 08:06
This was a very strange and totally unpredictable reshuffle. It is neither a disaster nor a triumph. Just a little odd.
I was pondering yesterday whether the appointment of Hammond to the Foreign Office was an act of insanity, vandalism or just an elaborate and inexplicable joke. The chuckle bunny had a terrible relationship with his officials and the top brass at MOD were as ecstatic at their loss as the FO mandarins were horrified at their gain. And the appointment of my old chum Michael Fallon as Defence Secretary is to be applauded. He is very good news and should have been promoted years ago.
But I still don’t understand Hammond’s purpose other than window dressing to appease the Euro carpet biters. He is hardly a Cameroon. If the PM was on fire the funster would be on record as being the first to grab a fire extinguisher, but he, as his duty, would be checking the safety protocols in such detail as to be unable to put out the blaze. He recoiled in horror at same sex marriage, but not enough to appear personally disloyal and he is keen to get out of Europe, but not so keen to appear to be personally disloyal. When his is invited to Kitchen Supper (now that will be a barrel load of laughs) the PM should sup with a very long spoon.Perhaps he is Cameron’s life raft when it comes to the referendum. If Euro reforms receive the Hammond seal of approval then Cameron might be able to stop his party falling apart. But it does mean that foreign policy will be driven from Number 10. Hague will go down as one of the great Foreign Secretaries, seamlessly able, totally loyal to Cameron, so much so that he was allowed to get on with the job in his own way. Hammond will not have that freedom.
In fifteenth century Spain women courtiers would keep a monkey on their shoulder to distract people from their ugliness. Even now the expression for female beauty is Que Guapo or how monkey like. At the moment when Cameron rocks the cosy European consensus boat they find it all rather tiresome. After a few months of dry as dust meetings with Hammond whose smile resembles the brass plate on a coffin, mean that Cameron will be welcomed with open arms. Positively feted. This is the PM’s Que Guapo moment with Hammond as the monkey.
So his appointment is both life raft and distraction. Even better, Brussels will know that Cameron is deadly serious about the consequences if the EU is not reformed. This is all so delightfully Machiavellian that it could only have originated from George Osborne. Which is rather reassuring.
Gove is rather fascinating too. Uber loyalist and utterly brilliant. The one Cabinet minister who through sheer force of personality has forced through popular and ground breaking reforms in education. But now is time for a little bit of TLC for teachers who have a hot line to parents. The policy will remain, but it will be presented in a more motherly way. Gove may now be the minister for the Today programme but Nicky Morgan is the minister for Mumsnet.
However, I am worried about the dismissal of Dominic Grieve and Oliver Heald the Attorney and Solicitor General. Men of integrity, honour and moderation who were not afraid to uses their offices for the public good rather than party advantage. The danger of sacking them is that they will now openly speak out about the way that abomination Grayling is destroying our legal system.
And the new Attorney Jeremy Wright? A good man and a former practising criminal barrister from Birmingham. He will not be a soft touch. If I was Grayling I would not be cracking open the bubbly. I’d be looking over my shoulder.