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May's Cabinet is yawn again

By Toby Neal | Politics | Published:

Cabinet reshuffle, not much happened.

Prime Minister Theresa May leads her first cabinet meeting of the new year at 10 Downing Street

That is Theresa May's New Year resolution for 2018. Don't have anything happen if you can help it. She had a go last year at making things happen, and look at what, well, happened.

It is a mistake she will not want to make again.

Bold, exciting, and adventurous are all words not to be associated with this shake-up of her pack. These are changes she has to some extent had to make through various members of the Cabinet tumbling through the trapdoor.

If you have missed the changes and didn't hear the breathless comments and commentaries of those in the Westminster bubble, here is a quick summary.

Some people you may be dimly aware of have been replaced by some people you probably haven't heard of in jobs you might not have known existed.

Yesterday there will have been rising tension and excitement among Tory MPs as they awaited The Call.

Would it be the walk of fame? This is the one where somebody strides confidently along Downing Street to the front door. As they do so, they must ignore at all costs impertinent questions called out by members of the media along the lines of "Are you up to the job?", "Did nobody else apply?" and so on.

Or would it be the walk of shame? This is for those who are sent packing. Best to avoid the waiting media entirely and sneak out of the back door.

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An exit from the Cabinet does not, of course, necessarily involve shame. Departures are also made with honour, and occasionally, as in the case of Michael Heseltine years ago, with a slice of high drama - Heseltine stormed out and marched up to the camera crews catching them by surprise.

It's farewell to Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire, who needs a lung operation and has stepped down. He has been praised for his "quiet, understated" work. There's nothing wrong with being quiet and understated but it will explain why you're having trouble putting a face to the name.

The roles the ministers have are in any event entirely misleading, and do not explain their function. Here is a quick key:

Scapegoat in Chief: Jeremy Hunt, of course. Some patsy has to take the blame for the NHS falling apart this winter. He's been like a little jack in a box. Whenever there's a crisis he pops up, looks startled, smiles, apologises, and then returns to his box until the next time.

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Don't Dare Move Him: Boris. There is that old quote, unprintable in a family newspaper, to describe where is the best place to have people in relation to tents. Mrs May is keeping Boris in the tent, rather than him being outside doing that thing into the tent we're not going to mention.

Safe Pair of Hands: David Davis has perhaps the most impossible job in the Cabinet, fighting in Brussels and Westminster simultaneously. He hasn't dropped the ball. Yet.

Minister of Survival: Theresa May herself. The political obituaries were prepared months ago and are still on the shelf ready. Yet somehow she has rendered somnolent those who might depose her.

This is one of the Prime Minister's great and unheralded political qualities. She can bore people into passivity.

In this Cabinet reshuffle, she has bored to death all but those whose job is to get excited about these things.

Job done, Mrs May.

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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