Yesterday’s reshuffle will reinvigorate the government in three ways. First, by booting the ultra-liberal Ken Clarke out from Justice, David Cameron has regained control over a key part of government policy. Secondly, the fresh face at the Department for International Development, Justine Greening, will help shake up a department that continues to splurge money on ill-conceived projects. She will, however, need all her wits to prevent herself going native. And finally, the new environment secretary, Owen Paterson, is a genuine Conservative. Apparently, he favours ending energy subsidies – a waste of money which, ironically, have contributed to higher energy prices. Will he favour shale gas? If so, Britain can become more self-sufficient and energy and utility bills will be slashed. After all, the debate is changing: scientists are discovering ways to recycle carbon dioxide in power plants and to use it as part of an energy source. Alex Singleton is managing director of the Singleton Group.
If you have to wait 28 months for a meaningful cabinet reshuffle, you expect something dramatic and dynamic when it happens. So, this game of musical chairs counts as a very damp squib. The much-trumpeted Plan A now amounts to little more than an attempt to keep public spending flat-lining at current levels. A genuinely comprehensive review of public spending, an ambitious programme of supply-side reform and a determination to reduce taxation seem as far away as ever. David Laws, who could have assisted in such an endeavour, has been deployed to one of the few government departments – education – which is making some tangible progress. A bold move by the Prime Minister would have been to restructure Whitehall itself. The departments for Business and for Culture, Media and Sport should have been abolished. Sadly, the coalition will plod on in the aimless and listless fashion we’ve become so used to.
Mark Littlewood is director-general of the IEA.