The week in review: Reshuffle reloads the coalition
As the prime minister chillaxes with his customary glass of plonk, he'll think to himself: this wasn't quite the week I'd planned.
David Cameron will have strategised and plotted ahead of his reshuffle, which began on Monday evening and continued for most of the week. Tuesday, the crunch day, was one full of drama and excitement. Broadly speaking, the PM got his way. With one exception: as it became clear on the day, Iain Duncan Smith simply wasn't interested in moving jobs from his precious work and pensions portfolio. That meant Chris Grayling had to take over from Ken Clarke at the Ministry of Justice. A minor hiccup, perhaps, but an embarrassing one.
With many of the most senior positions in government not changing hands – a situation which the Paralympic crowd expressed its views on through some unbridled booing of the poor, helplessly grinning chancellor George Osborne – the media's headlines focused on the transport secretary job.
Getting rid of Justine Greening triggered a mass panic among those opposed to a third runway at Heathrow. London mayor Boris Johnson was particularly notable in the way he fell off his chair (this time that's a joke, although you can never tell with Boris). Three days into the job, her successor Patrick McLoughlin had decisively kicked the issue into the long grass with the establishment of a commission. It will take until the spring of 2015 to get its work done, meaning the coalition won't ever have to make a decision before the general election.
The prime minister's reshuffle was also notable for the surprise promotion of Jeremy Hunt to the health secretary job. Maybe it was his useful experience of already being despised by many. Or maybe it was just that Cameron thinks he is a good communicator. Whatever it was, Hunt's appointment will strike many members of the public as being utterly crazy. His handling of the BSkyB takeover bid was supposed to have scuppered his career for good. But now here he is, emerging unscathed from a scandal which – somehow – didn't result in his resignation. No wonder he looked so chirpy when he emerged from Downing Street on Tuesday morning.
This was also the week when we got a new Green party leader; when Michael Gove indicated his determination to get rid of GCSEs for good; and Nick Clegg got a load off his chest over the government's failed NHS reforms. The party conferences move ever closer, but for now Cameron can chillax: despite the stories about him making ministers cry, this was actually one of his better weeks. Reshuffles are supposed to be sweeping statements of prime ministerial authority: this one appeared unhurried and unflustered. More than can be said for Dave's big rival in City Hall.