First all-conservative cabinet “the real party of working people”
Day before yesterday David Cameron called the first all-Tory cabinet meeting after 18 years, reminding ministers of the need to “restore trust and faith in politics”, and making particular mention of impending education and welfare reforms motivated by a sense of “true social justice and genuine compassion”.
The prime minister added that he wanted to give “more and more people the dignity of work, the dignity of having a pay cheque, being able to keep more of their own money to spend as they choose, a home of their own, the peace of mind and security that comes from being able to raise a family and have a decent and secure retirement.”
“Those”, he continued, “are the down-to-earth, bread-and-butter issues that we were elected to deliver on, and that is what we’ve got to do in this parliament.”
Of the 29 new members of the Cabinet appointed by Mr Cameron, ten are women, including Amber Rudd, who has been named secretary of state for energy and climate change; Priti Patel, a firm proponent of the in/out EU referendum, and a supporter for the return of capital punishment, who has been appointed as minister of state for employment; and Anna Soubry, who has become minister of state for small businesses.
The prime minister had previously pledged to appoint at least a third of ministerial jobs to women, in an attempt to correct an unrepresentative gender imbalance within government. However, while the new cabinet reflects this pledge, an overall majority – 77 per cent – of ministers are men.
High-profile moves within the cabinet include Sajid Javid, former culture, media and sport secretary and newly appointed secretary of state for business, an area that seems to better suit his professional interests and background as a student of economics and former banker.
In an interview with the BBC, Javid praised his party’s involvement in creating two million new jobs during the years of the coalition government, an achievement which he said was enabled by “lowering taxes on enterprise and increasing work incentives”.
He echoed the prime ministers words about everybody having the dignity of employment and said: “I now want to take things forward within the government, and that means looking at what we can do to back business. We conservatives, we are the party of business.”
Furthermore, Robert Halfon becomes the minister without portfolio, a role previously occupied by Grant Shapps, who also attended the cabinet as a Tory co-chairman, and was recently implicated in a scandal surrounding alleged changes made by him, or a close source, to Wikipedia accounts of other politicians. This latest reshuffle has seen him unceremoniously ousted from the cabinet to the post of minister of state at the Department of International Development (DFID).
As an MP, Halfon has lobbied for increased support for trade unions, has called for lower fuel tax, and has expressed his support for lower tax for workers. His values are, perhaps, those which this new Tory government, positioning themselves as the “real party of working people”, are searching to embrace more openly.
Another of the most frequently discussed appointments is that of John Whittingdale to secretary of state for culture, media and sport. Whittingdale is an outspoken opponent of the current TV licence fee – according to the Daily Telegraph, in October 2014, he described it as “worse than a poll tax” – and will chair discussions with the BBC over its renewal at the end of next year.
Additionally, former education secretary, Michael Gove has been named Lord chancellor and secretary of state for justice, while the former occupant of the role, Chris Grayling, becomes Lord president of the council and leader of the House of Commons.
Boris Johnson, a close ally of the PM, has been given no formal role within the cabinet, but will attend nonetheless.
Speaking to journalists from the Guardian, Johnson said of his new role: “It is a zero-hours contract. It is definitely not a job.”