Reshuffling Incompetents

Dave “I won’t be doing any cabinet reshuffles” Cameron has just about finished announcing his first cabinet reshuffle.

A couple of the appointments are truly terrifying:

Health Secretary – Jeremy Hunt

Rhymes with HuntNow let’s not pretend for one second that Andrew Lansley was a good Health Secretary. He wasn’t. He’s reviled.

But the incoming Secretary of State for Health is a believer in Homeopathy (i.e. the less you use of a medicine, the more effective it is – otherwise known as “complete bollocks”).

That’s pretty bad.

He also co-authored a little book, Direct Democracy (2009), with Daniel Hannan (who famously called the NHS a “60 year mistake” in which Hunt calls for the NHS to be dismantled.

That would be the man now in charge of reforming the NHS. So that bodes well.

Justice Secretary – Chris Grayling

Lord Clarke, the outgoing Justice secretary, has been a senior figure in British politics for many years. He’s also one of the few Conservative politicians who seems capable of behaving ministerially – even thought I frequently disagree with him – so it is a bit of a shame to see him go.

It’s even more of a pity to see him replaced by a man who has so little understanding of British crime statistics that he once likened Moss Side (Manchester) to the dramatised version of Baltimore portrayed in The Wire– also describing policing Moss Side as an “urban war” after accompanying police for a day.

Bearing in mind that gang-related crime had fallen in Moss Side by 82% in the year of his visit, and that it had suffered no gun-related murders that year (compared with real-life Baltimore, which suffered 191 in the same period).

In 2010, Grayling was quoted as saying that B&B owners should have the right to turn away gay couples – something that would considerably turn back the clock on gay rights (and equal rights in general).

More recently, as Employment Minister Grayling has been at the forefront of government ‘workfare’ schemes – mandatory programmes which force young people to work without pay, which are now being extended to the disabled and terminally ill (despite massive public outcry) – with the latest shameful bit of legislation indicating that disabled claimants who miss a DWP or workfare appointment (say, for a chemotherapy treatment) can be forced to live on £25 per week as ‘punishment’.

When Shadow Home Secretary, Grayling’s office was repeatedly caught fabricating crime statistics – so the idea that a man with such a shaky grasp on reality, and such a flagrant disregard for truth and evidence and who has already shown a degree of prejudice towards specific minority groups will be making decisions about justice in the United Kingdom fills me with cold dread.

The Status Quo

There are many more ludicrous appointments, of course – Grant Shapps for Party Chairman, a man who wrote a self-help book (under  a pseudonym) suggesting that those affected by the recession simply “eat less” and reap the “health benefits”…), the removal of Justine Greening from Transport Secretary – but none are quite as terrifying as the two at the top.

And none are quite so scary as those who remain in their jobs – Iain Duncan Smith at the DWP, still on his crusade against the disabled (tarted up as a campaign to reduce fraudulent claims, despite DWP figures showing a 0.5% fraud rate); Michael Gove as Education Secretary, despite the recent debacle with GCSE results, and his obsession with Free Schools; George Osborne staying on as Chancellor of the Exchequer, despite the clear and apparent failure of his ‘plan’, and his stubborn refusal to adopt a new economic policy lest he be seen as ‘proving Labour right’.

The common thread through most of these appointments and sinecures seems increasingly obvious – Cameron appoints men (and nearly always men) who are spectacularly unqualified for their position.

Jeremy Hunt is not a doctor – he has a Politics degree. Lansley, his predecessor as Health Secretary also has a Politics degree and no medical qualifications or experience.

Chris Grayling, Secretary of State of Justice, has a degree in History and is our first non-lawyer as Justice Secretary (or Lord Chancellor) since 1558.

Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, had a military education, finally being educated at Sandhurst.

Thereas May, Home Secretary, has a degree in Geography and experience as Chair of Education – but no experience in any security or policing.

George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, has a degree in Modern History and has only really worked within the Tory party (except when he was folding towels in Selfridges).

We shouldn’t really be surprised that these people are so bad at their jobs when they have no related qualifications and no relevant experience.

But we can certainly hold them to task when they are inevitably found wanting.

2 thoughts on “Reshuffling Incompetents

  • 6th September 2012 at 00:52

    Well… when you put it like that, things are certainly more grim than I thought.

    On a more serious note, is there really that big a precedent for ministers to have any serious amount of expertise in their fields, rather than just being the PM’s cronies? I’d always assumed that we were being governed by ministers with no idea what they were doing regardless of the party in charge, but correct me if I’m wrong.

    • 9th September 2012 at 10:59

      Historically, ministers aren’t necessarily qualified in the roles to which they are assigned, but previous cabinets have maintained key ministers with either qualifications or relevant experience.

      e.g. Gordon Brown had worked in Treasury roles since 1987 before being appointed Shadow Chancellor in 1992, and Chancellor of Exchequer in 1997; Nigel Lawson was from a family of stockbrokers and worked as a financial journalist before working his way through various Treasury roles and ultimately being appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer.

      Osborne went from ‘towel folder at Selfridges’ to ‘William Hague’s Speechwriter’ (1997) to ‘Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer’ (2005)

      The Lord Chancellor (Secretary of State for Justice), as noted, is always a lawyer – or at least has been since the 16th century…


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