Tag Archives: Leveson

May wants to foil plans for tighter press regulation. No wonder our biased media love her

I wouldn’t be surprised if the next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary simply printed a photograph of Theresa May as its definition of the word “corruption”.

She wants to end attempts to hold the press accountable for their actions – in order to make it possible for the right-wing, Tory-supporting media to continue with such activities as the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone, the disruption of a murder investigation, and the moment they gave false hope to a grieving mother.

These are all recent examples of behaviour the Leveson Inquiry was intended to end. But Leveson isn’t over, and the Conservatives announced in March that it never would be – they were scrapping the second stage of the inquiry.

The decision provoked a furious backlash from people who have been harmed by press misbehaviour, and former Labour leader Ed Miliband tabled an amendment to the Data Protection Bill to establish a new statutory inquiry into the media.

A second amendment, tabled by Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson, would have seen publishers not signed up to a state-supported regulator pay their own and their opponent’s legal costs in data protection cases, even if they win.

But the government won yesterday’s vote by 304 votes to 295, a majority of nine, after apparently making concessions to the Democratic Unionist party (DUP). One Labour MP, John Grogan, voted with the government, while up to 18 more appeared to have stayed away.

Culture Secretary Matt Hancock had the cheek to hail the result as “a great day for a free and fair press”.

Mrs May wants the press to be self-regulating, making corrupt decisions in favour of the news media all-too-easy to arrange.

That is why she wanted MPs to vote against the Labour proposals.

She told senior ministers at cabinet that plans put forward by opposition MPs would “undermine” the free press and unjustly see papers forking out crippling sums of money even if they do not lose legal cases.

Clearly she would rather force the people who have been wronged by the press to pay such crippling sums – making legal action impossible for the poor.

Mrs May has once again demonstrated where her own loyalties lie:

Not with justice, but with those who are both wealthy – and corrupt.

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Liars exposed! Why has nobody been sacked yet?

Questions to answer: Maria Miller, the minister for evasion, cannot be expected to respond. She obstructed Parliament's inquiry into her expenses claims and her eventual apology for her misdeeds lasted just 32 seconds.

Questions to answer: Maria Miller, the minister for evasion, cannot be expected to respond. She obstructed Parliament’s inquiry into her expenses claims and her eventual apology for her misdeeds lasted just 32 seconds.

This blog asked yesterday whether Downing Street communications chief Craig Oliver was a liar, an incompetent, or both after he denied that government officers threatened the Daily Telegraph with tougher press regulation if it published its investigation into Maria Miller’s expenses.

It turns out he was both.

The Telegraph has now published a recording of the conversation between reporter Holly Watt and Miller’s advisor Joanna Hindley, on which its allegations are based. There can be no doubt that the reporter did indeed have Leveson held over her (corruptly); there can be little doubt that this was done at the request of Miller; and there can be no doubt at all that Mr Oliver knew about it.

So – a liar. And incompetent, because he had obviously discounted the possibility that the Telegraph reporter might have recorded the exchange.

It appears that Mr Oliver still has his job, despite having become the second person to disgrace it out of only two appointed by David Cameron. We cannot comment on Joanna Hindley.

The bullying, possibly blackmailing fraudster Maria Miller – who also persecuted thousands of disabled people while she was minister for equalities, also remains part of the government.

This speaks volumes about the lack of judgement displayed by ‘comedy’ Prime Minister David Cameron.

The longer he delays removing his rotten minister, her rotten advisor and his rotten media chief, the more rotten he and his government will become – in the opinion of the public.

And for this Prime Minister, public opinion is everything.

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The Telegraph must stand firm against Downing Street bullies

Self-satisfied: Downing street communications chief Craig Oliver. But does he have any reason to look so pleased with himself?

Self-satisfied: Downing street communications chief Craig Oliver. But does he have any reason to look so pleased with himself?

Is Downing Street director of communications Craig Oliver a liar, or incompetent? Or is he an incompetent liar?

These are the questions we should ask after he denied threatening the Daily Telegraph with tougher press regulation if it published details of its investigation into Maria Miller’s expenses.

The Telegraph reported that Miller’s parents were living in her taxpayer-funded south London second home, implying that she had fraudulently claimed expenses for it, in December 2012 – and immediately followed its report with another, alleging that government advisers tried to bully the paper out of running the story.

The Telegraph claimed that Miller’s special advisor, Joanna Hindley, told a reporter that the Editor of the Telegraph was involved in meetings with the Prime Minister and the Culture Secretary over implementing the recommendations made by Lord Justice Leveson, and that the reporter should discuss the issue with “people a little higher up your organisation”.

The report continued: “Miss Hindley immediately contacted the Telegraph’s head of public affairs to raise concerns about the story. The news group decided to delay publication in order to ensure the facts were correct.

“Having carried out further checks, the newspaper concluded that the story was accurate and decided to publish the article at the first opportunity, meaning it appeared on the day same-sex marriage was debated in the Commons.” The government then suggested that the Telegraph was using the story to “overshadow” the announcement.

“Miss Hindley also accused the Telegraph of harassing Mrs Miller’s father, John Lewis,” the story continued

“In fact, reporters had a brief conversation with Mr Lewis in order to establish how long he had lived with Mrs Miller. Over the course of the conversation, Mr Lewis said he enjoyed reading the Telegraph.”

These claims are clearly damaging to Miss Hindley’s reputation as she is shown to be threatening, on Miller’s behalf, to use government powers to clamp down on reports in the Telegraph, which would be an abuse of the system.

Today’s report on the BBC News website has former Telegraph editor Tony Gallagher claiming that Mr Oliver contacted him to “lean” on the newspaper and “prevent it going about its legitimate business”.

He said: “She has done the free press a great favour,” he said.

“Maria Miller provides a cast-iron example of why politicians should have no power over the press.”

Mr Oliver denied the claim that the Telegraph was threatened. But the question remains: If this is true, why did he not take appropriate action sooner?

If he is right in his claim, then the government could have sued the Telegraph for libelling not only Miss Hindley, but also Mr Oliver andMiller herself. Why didn’t he?

The Telegraph provided its own version of events immediately after they took place, but Mr Oliver has waited 16 months to offer us his side of the story. It’s too late now.

We can only conclude that he is either lying about what happened, incompetent in not having taken the appropriate action at the appropriate time, or an incompetent liar because – given then evidence available to us – it was those acting for the government who misbehaved.

And the bullying, possibly blackmailing fraudster is still in her job. Why?

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Bad apples?

Meet the new boss: Richard Caseby - no connection with any 'bad apples' at News UK or the DWP. Let's hope it stays that way.

Meet the new boss: Richard Caseby – no connection with any ‘bad apples’ at News UK or the government. Let’s hope it stays that way.

The highly confrontational former managing editor of both The Sunday Times and The Sun has been named as the new director of communications at the Department for Work and Pensions.

Richard Caseby takes over after former comms boss John Shield was hired by the BBC last September.

Gosh, what an incestuous world we live in! The BBC, now confirmed as little more than a mouthpiece for the Conservative Party in its political news content, hires the former press officer for the Tory-run DWP. The DWP then hires an executive from Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, previous home of – oh, yes – former Number 10 press supremo Andy Coulson, currently on trial for criminal offences allegedly committed while he was employed by the same firm!

Murdoch, the government, the BBC – these people like to stick together, and they like to put their people in positions of influence.

There is no evidence – to my knowledge – that could link Mr Caseby to any criminal behaviour at News UK. It is to be hoped that any ‘bad apples’ who worked there did not manage to spoil the whole bunch. It would be wrong to consider him guilty of any wrongdoing merely by association with his previous employer.

And we should not automatically consider him to have been elevated to this position – in which, as a government employee, he should be impartial and not partisan – because he may be ideologically aligned with the Conservatives.

That being said, I shall certainly be watching this character like a hawk.

It seems he has gained a reputation for being “outspoken” and “forthright” – Roy Greenslade in The Guardian recounts an occasion when a columnist for that paper had mistakenly reported that The Sun had doorstepped a Leveson Inquiry lawyer, writing that such activities were equal to “casually defecating on his lordship’s desk while doing a thumbs-up sign”.

In response, Mr Caseby sent a toilet roll to Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger along with a note saying: “I hear Marina Hyde’s turd landed on your desk.”

Of his new roll – sorry, role – at the DWP, Mr Caseby said: “Welfare reform and the introduction of Universal Credit represent the biggest transformation programme in the UK. It is fundamentally about changing culture and behaviour to make sure there is always an incentive to work.

“This is a huge and inspiring communications challenge and I’m delighted to be joining the DWP team to help in the task.”

Clearly he is already getting the hang of the lingo: “tranformation”, “changing culture and behaviour”, and “always an incentive to work” are all DWP catchphrases – probably because they don’t mean anything.

A “transformation” programme can turn a good system into the substance he mentioned in his Guardian note.

“Changing culture and behaviour” does not mean improving standards of living – in fact the evidence shows the exact opposite.

And the idea that DWP cuts mean there is “always an incentive to work” has been disproved to the point of ridicule. Iain Duncan Smith’s changes have hit low-paid workers more than anybody else and wages have been dropping continuously since the Secretary-in-a-State slithered into the job back in 2010.

Universal Credit has been the subject of so many expensive write-offs and relaunches that a campaign was launched earlier this week, called ‘Rip It Up And Start Again’, seeking an end to the fiasco.

This is the arena into which Mr Caseby has stepped.

He’d better tread carefully.

If he puts just one foot wrong, he might just get his head bitten off.

Syria: The right decision for the wrong reason?

A statesman emerges: Ed Miliband's decisions on Syria have revealed courage and determination to do what is right. They show he has the potential to be a great British statesman.

A statesman emerges: Ed Miliband’s decisions on Syria have revealed courage and determination to do what is right. They show he has the potential to be a great British statesman.

It looked as though we were all heading for another pointless adventure in the Middle East, but a day in politics really is a long time, isn’t it?

On Tuesday evening, there seemed to be consensus. The leaders of the main UK political parties had met to discuss the situation in Syria – in particular the evidence that an attack involving chemical weapons had taken place – and had parted in broad agreement that military action was warranted in order to discourage the use of such devices.

But then Labour’s Ed Miliband changed his mind. It seems likely he held a meeting with members of his own party who helped him devise an alternative plan.

In his blog on Tuesday, Michael Meacher laid down several reasons for delaying any new military adventure:

  • The UN weapons inspectors currently working in Syria have not had enough time to find conclusive proof of chemical weapon use. Attacking on the basis of the evidence we currently hold would be reminiscent of the attack on Iraq, where we were assured Saddam Hussein held weapons of mass destruction. We later discovered – to our shame – that he did not;
  • Where 100,000 citizens have already been killed by conventional means, it seems extremely odd to use the deaths of 1,000 by other means as an excuse to wade into the fray; and
  • What about international law? How would Russia and China react if the UN Security Council, on which they both sit, rejected military action but the UK – along with the USA and others – went ahead with it anyway? And wouldn’t this light a powder keg in the Middle East, kicking off a larger, regional conflict – the outcome of which cannot be predicted?

Mr Miliband concluded that it would be far better to wait for stronger evidence and he notified David Cameron that he would be tabling an amendment on Syria when Parliament is recalled today (Thursday). This would insist that a vote should be taken only after the weapons inspectors have delivered their report. He said Parliament should only agree criteria for action – not write a blank cheque (for those who want war).

This writer was delighted – the decision was almost exactly what I had suggested when I responded to a poll on the LabourList blog site, although I had added in my comment that the only decision open to Parliament was to offer humanitarian aid to non-combatants affected by the fighting between the different Syrian factions.

The decision indicated not only that Labour had learned its lesson from the Blair-era decisions to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, but that Mr Miliband had also paid attention to the will of the British people; those opposing another war outnumber those supporting it by around two to one.

Mr Cameron was now in a very difficult position as, without Labour’s support and with only limited backing from his own party, it was entirely possible that he would be defeated if he suggested military action in the Commons today.

Defeat in a major vote is, of course, something that no government voluntarily provokes. He had no choice but to change his mind, and now Parliament is being recalled to approve humanitarian aid and agree to the course of action put forward by Mr Miliband.

So now all my wishes appear likely to be granted.

It is the correct decision. But it was not the decision Cameron wanted. He wanted war.

It is also a decision that has been clearly dictated by the actions of the Opposition leader. Let’s make no bones about it, Ed Miliband called this tune and David Cameron danced to it.

Let’s look at what Michael Meacher had to say about this. It is illuminating because it comes from a backbencher who has been outspoken in criticism of Mr Miliband in the past. He wrote in his blog: “It singles out Ed Miliband as a man of inner strength and integrity who can take the gritty decisions when they are most needed, and this is undoubtedly one of those times… The hardest thing for a Leader of the Opposition to do, bereft of any executive authority, is to challenge the prevailing structure of power and change it or even overturn it. No other Opposition Leader has succeeded in this as well as Ed Miliband.

“We have already seen him take on Murdoch over BSkyB and stop the biggest concentration of media power in UK history in its tracks, and then almost single-handedly block the press counter-attack against Leveson which would have left newspapers as unaccountable as ever.”

So it seems we will see the right decision taken, albeit for the wrong reasons – thanks to the courage, leadership and statesmanship of Mr Miliband.

There’s just one further question: If the big decision is being taken after the weapons inspectors report back, and they are unlikely to do so until Monday (we’re told)… That’s after MPs were scheduled to return to Parliament. The emergency recall is therefore an unnecessary extravagance.

I wonder how much MPs will be allowed to claim for it on expenses?

(Note: This has been written while events continue to develop. All information was accurate at the time of writing.)

Farage meets Murdoch; Leveson has achieved nothing

Why is HE looking so happy? Could it be that Nigel Farage's meeting with Rupert Murdoch signifies support for UKIP from News Corporation? If so, would it really be in the public interest, or in that of the individuals concerned?

Why is HE looking so happy? Could it be that Nigel Farage’s meeting with Rupert Murdoch signifies support for UKIP from News Corporation? If so, would it really be in the public interest, or in that of the individuals concerned?

Was the Leveson Inquiry into media standards just an incredibly lengthy distraction from the ravages being wrought on the British system of government by the Coalition? In the light of current evidence, it seems so.

The inquiry found, and I quote from the executive summary, “the political parties of UK national Government and of UK official Opposition, have had or developed too close a relationship with the press in a way which has not been in the public interest. In part, this has simply been a matter of spending a disproportionate amount of time, attention and resource on this relationship in comparison to, and at the expense of, other legitimate claims in relation to the conduct of public affairs.”

We know that the Coalition government has resisted efforts to put Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations into practice.

Now we see that UKIP leader Nigel Farage is courting Rupert Murdoch, the long-time boss of News Corporation, which owns many British newspapers and a huge stake in BSkyB satellite broadcasting. Murdoch was cast as one of the principal villains in the inquiry, as staff at his newspapers were responsible for hacking the phones of celebrities and other people in the news – most notably the family of Milly Dowler – thereby hindering police investigations.

“Too close a relationship with the press in a way which has not been in the public interest”. Although UKIP came second in the Eastleigh by-election, that party is in no position to call itself an official Opposition, but the BBC report saying Murdoch is “interested” to find out more about it is disturbing.

Even more disturbing is the fact that Farage would not comment on what was discussed during the meeting.

From Leveson, again: “The evidence suggests that politicians have conducted themselves in relation to the press in ways which have not served the public interest. They have placed themselves in positions in which they risked becoming vulnerable to influences which are neither known about nor transparent.”

The Daily Telegraph seems to think Mr Farage discussed the possibility of an electoral pact with the Conservatives if David Cameron stood down as leader. If that is true, then he was seeking an assurance of support from Murdoch, whose newspapers can do much to sway public opinion – often in spite of the facts.

Would this serve the public interest? No.

If Murdoch wished to influence Farage on such matters, would we be allowed to know about it? No. Would it be transparent? No, because that would show that the press was manipulating politicians, a situation strongly opposed – not only by Leveson but by the general public.

So the details of the meeting are kept from us. Never mind.

The fact that it took place at all is damning enough.

Still, we can thank Farage and Murdoch for several things.

First, the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press was lengthy, expensive and pointless. Nothing has changed.

Second, the press – the Murdoch press, at the very least – is still keen to influence British politics for its own purposes.

Third, politicians – as represented here by Nigel Farage – are equally keen to be influenced and corrupted by the press, if it will help them gain power.

Do not trust the Murdoch press.

Do not trust Farage or UKIP.

Do not trust any UK administration that does not, at the very least, follow the Leveson recommendations.

Miller’s ‘killer’ instinct homes in on the press

The new culture secretary, Maria Miller, loves to throw her weight around, doesn’t she?

I wasn’t going to write about how she claimed £90,000 towards a mortgage and other expenses associated with the south London house where her parents live – the Daily Telegraph has already done a very good job of it – but then, it seems, she decided to try bully-girl tactics.

While the newspaper was researching the story, we are told, Mrs Miller’s special advisor – one Joanna Hindley – warned a Telegraph reporter that the paper’s editor was meeting the Prime Minister and the culture secretary to discuss the implementation of the Leveson report.

The implication seems clear enough: “Leave her alone or she’ll make life very difficult for you.”

Big, big mistake.

You see, this meant it wasn’t another “dodgy expenses claim” story any more. It’s now about abuse of power. That puts this minister up in the big leagues, with George Osborne and that paddock he used to own.

Gideon, as by now I have documented very thoroughly, thought he could get away with using taxpayers’ cash to make a cool million pounds in the property market without anyone being able to do a thing about it. Now there’s a criminal investigation under way, examining his activities.

Mrs Miller, who earned the nickname ‘Killer’ for her part in implementing cruel and unnecessary welfare reforms that have led either directly or indirectly to the deaths of 73 people per week (on average) – and who also ensured the closure of 36 Remploy factories, which employ disabled people (another 10 have come under threat from her successor) – seems to think she can use her position to stop the public finding out the facts about her.

Well, now we know one thing for sure: She’s a nasty piece of work.

And she can’t perform her job impartially, which is what is required. Cabinet ministers are supposed to act for the good of the nation, not their own petty personal interests. In this, both Gideon and ‘Killer’ have failed. They have abused public trust and should be dismissed. My opinion is that Osborne should be jailed.

‘Killer’ has been reported to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards as her expenses claims appear to be similar to those of Labour MP Tony McNulty who, in 2009, was required to pay back more than £13,000 in expenses claimed on a second home occupied by his parents.

I hope she gets penalised in a big way.

But even if that doesn’t happen, she can be sure that life won’t be easy from now on. Reporters don’t take kindly to bullies, and a threat against one – in the way she engineered – is a threat against us all.

I reckon we’ll be finding out a lot more about Mrs Miller’s misdeeds from now on. Perhaps life will become difficult for her.

The great Leveson whitewash

Lord Justice Leveson, delivering his speech.

Oh, all right – greywash.

Please note: This is an initial reaction to the Leveson report, based on Lord Justice Leveson’s speech today (November 29). The report itself is 2,000 pages long and may contain much more that is of interest to us. But that will have to wait for another day.

Lord Justice Leveson has come out with his report which, in effect, advocates as little change to current press regulation as he thought he could get away with.

Jeremy Hunt, the Murdochs, George Osborne and David Cameron can all sleep comfortably tonight, in the knowledge that the skeletons in their closets have not been disturbed.

Leveson wants the press governed by a new self-regulatory body, underpinned by legislation, containing no serving editors or politicians.

But he says incidents in which the press have corrupted politicians or police are exceptions to the rule, and that the norm is a “robust” (he said that word a lot) relationship.

He said: “The lawbreaking in this area is typically hidden, with the victims unaware of what has happened… I haven’t seen any evidence to suggest that corruption by the press is a widespread problem in relation to the police; however, I have identified issues to be addressed.”

On the relationship between press and politicians, he recommended steps to create greater transparency “so there is no risk of even the perception of bias”.

He said: “In a number of respects, the relationship between politicians and the press has been too close, conducted out of the public eye, between policymakers and those who stand to benefit.

“The power of the press to affect political fortunes may be used to affect policy. That undermines the belief in policy decisions being made genuinely in the public interest.”

I suppose you could say he did criticise the government with this line: “The press is entitled to lobby in its own interests, but it is the responsibility of the politicians to ensure their decisions are in the public interest. Their dealings with the press should be open and transparent and the public should have understanding of the process.”

That certainly hasn’t happened with regard to the relationships between David Cameron and either Andy Coulson or Rebekah Brooks, or the relationships of both Mr Cameron and George Osborne with the Murdochs, or indeed that of former culture secretary Jeremy Hunt with News Corporation/News International!

I don’t think his proposals will work. I think the transgressors will keep on doing what they have been doing, and the politicians will continue to pander to them because they influence the popular vote.

I would like to have seen Leveson criticise a situation that has seen powerful newspaper magnates worm their way into the retinues of ministers and even the Prime Minister; and especially welcome would be a request for an explanation, from the PM, of his over-close relationship with the former chief executive of News International, Rebekah Brooks, who is even now awaiting trial for alleged criminal acts.

I would also like to see Leveson demand disclosure of the emails and texts that Mr Cameron did not provide to the inquiry or otherwise make public. What does he have to hide? Also, since the Prime Minister should be above reproach, should we conclude that his continued opacity in this regard is an admission that he is culpable of something, and therefore should we not demand his removal from office?

Instead, Leveson seems to have drawn a line under what happened. It is future relationships that he wants to safeguard. For those involved in the phone hacking scandals and the relationship between the Murdoch organisation and the Conservative Party, this means there will always be doubt in the public mind. Mr Cameron has lost public trust over this.

I would like to have seen Leveson question the way newspaper reporters have managed to get inside information from police forces across the country, because this raises serious issues about the corruptibility of our boys in blue. It takes two people to hand over confidential information – the one who’s asking for it and the one who provides it.

Perhaps that will follow but I doubt it. Despite Lord Justice Leveson’s beliefs, it seems this affair has damaged public perception of the police – as a whole – as well.

Cameron, Brooks, and an embarrassment of emails

The correspondents: Can anything transmitted between Rebekah Brooks and David Cameron be as bad for them as a naked photograph was for a Conservative councillor?

How embarrassing are these emails that David Cameron withheld from the Leveson Inquiry?

I’m sure you know the story by now – Mr Cameron held back dozens of emails, including (it’s believed) messages to Andy Coulson while he was still an employee of Rupert Murdoch, after taking legal advice. It seems they’re not “relevant”.

The trouble is, things that aren’t “relevant” have a nasty habit of grabbing the public interest. I want to know the contents of every single one of those emails, and I don’t think I’m the only one.

… Most especially since the contents of these private emails have been described as “embarrassing“.

Here in Mid Wales – only last week – we have had experience of “embarrassing” material, sent between individuals electronically, resurfacing to the detriment of a political reputation.

It concerns a very young county councillor, who took a naked photograph of himself on a mobile phone and transmitted it to a girl he claims was his enamorata at the time. That photo subsequently went public, and recently a campaign was launched against the councillor, casting doubt on his character due to the fact that he had taken the photograph in the first place, and the age of the girl to whom he sent it (my understanding is that she was aged under 16).

Putting his side of the story to a local newspaper, the councillor reportedly said: “A private communication between myself and my girlfriend at the time was shown to others. It was a foolish thing to do and it caused much embarrassment. I apologised at the time to all concerned.”

That’s not actually good enough, as we have no information from the young lady who received the photograph. Was she really his girlfriend? This might actually be a case of a 17-year-old sending a naked picture of himself to a random girl several years younger – in which case it’s a completely different affair.

But let’s go back to Mr Cameron. It occurs to me that, whatever those emails to Rebekah Brooks may contain, they can’t be anything like as damaging as what this young councillor (who also happens to be a Conservative) did.

So, unless Mr Cameron emailed naked pictures of himself to Mrs Brooks and Mr Coulson, there is less harm in producing the emails and letting the public make up its own mind than in not producing them – and watching the public decide anyway!

Cabinet reshuffle: Does Cameron think he’s the Joker?

Today’s blog entry will be relatively short. I had an operation on my leg yesterday (September 4) and it seems to be affecting my ability to think.

… And if you think that’s bizarre and illogical, let’s have a look at the decisions made by David Cameron in yesterday’s Cabinet reshuffle!

Firstly, the really shocking news: George Osborne is remaining as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Not really news, I know, but at the outset it makes a mockery of a process that is supposed to be about improving the government of the UK. Osborne’s policies are a disaster; he has sent British industry nosediving while increasing borrowing by £9.3 billion in the last four months. He was booed when he got up to give out medals at the Paralympics and he was booed at Prime Minister’s Questions today. But he remains in the Number Two government job.

Also remaining in post are Home Secretary Theresa May and Foreign Secretary William Hague; Education Secretary Michael Gove surprisingly keeps his brief, despite having proved by his activities that he is not up to the intellectual challenge (see previous Vox articles).

And Iain Duncan Smith will remain at Work and Pensions – oh yes he will! – despite having been offered Justice by David Cameron. This shows the weakness of the Prime Minister. As LabourList’s Mark Ferguson put it: “Cameron tried to move IDS. IDS said no. Cameron said ‘ah…um…ok’. Weak, weak, weak.”

Fellow Tweeter Carl Maxim added: “Iain Duncan Smith was offered a job at Justice but refused to take it. Therefore his benefits should be cut.”

And a fellow called ‘Woodo’ tweeted: “Gove and Duncan-Smith to stay in roles to ‘get the job done’. ‘The job’ being making educating poor kids harder and killing off the disabled.”

Biggest winner in the reshuffle has to be former Culture moron – I mean secretary – Jeremy Hunt, who has been moved up to take the Health brief. This has been seen as a reward for his work on the phone hacking controversy that led to the departure of former News of the World editor Andy Coulson from the Downing Street press office, and to the Leveson Inquiry into the behaviour of the media.

This seems a nonsensical move. Leveson has ordered not only Cameron, but Cameron’s friends Coulson, Rebekah Brooks (who now faces criminal charges for her part in phone hacking), and Hunt himself to give evidence in hearings that were highly embarrassing for those under scrutiny.

Hunt’s own close connections with Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corporation owns the papers that were mainly responsible for the crimes, is well-documented, and led to this tweet from James Lyons: “BREAKING – Rupert Murdoch to buy the NHS.”

This may not be far from the truth. Hunt co-authored a book dealing with the NHS at length, with Daniel Hannon MEP who called the NHS a 60 year mistake. The book states: “Our ambition should be to break down the barriers between private and public provision, in effect denationalising the provision of health care in Britain“.

He reportedly tried to remove the NHS tribute from the Olympic Games opening ceremony and his record in government is as dodgy: he voted to halve the time allowed for an abortion from 24 weeks to 12. His support of homeopathy has also attracted ridicule from some quarters.

Hunt’s arrival at Health follows the ejection of Andrew Lansley, the man who worked for eight long years on his Health and Social Care Bill, that effectively privatised health care in England. This work constituted the biggest lie this government ever sold to the public – that the Conservatives would safeguard the well-loved 64-year-old national institution. His reward? Demotion to become Leader of the House of Commons.

Former employment minister Chris Grayling, a man who believes bed and breakfast owners should be allowed to ban gay couples, has been promoted to the Justice brief. In response, one tweeter asked if Cameron will be building more prisons.

This means the oldest Cabinet member, Kenneth Clarke, has been ejected from Justice. David Cameron reportedly tried to sack him outright, along with departing Conservative co-chair Baroness Warsi, but ended up compounding his weakness by creating new roles for them instead. Clarke will be a minister without portfolio (although it is believed he’ll be sticking his oar into Osborne’s business at the Treasury), and Warsi will be minister for faith and communities.

Nick Parry tweeted: “Now ‘Baroness’ Warsi really knows what it’s like to be Northern and working-class – she’s been made redundant by the Tories.”

And Rory Macqueen asked: “Who has replaced Warsi in the <issue off-the-shelf statement about “Labour’s union baron paymasters”> role? It looks really challenging.”

That would be tireless self-promoter and foot-in-mouth artist Grant Shapps.

Scraping the bottom of the barrel… The new Transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, is afraid of flying.

And the former minister for the disabled, Maria ‘Killer’ Miller, is the new Equalities minister. She’ll be victimising women, gays and ethnic minorities as well, from now on. If you think that’s harsh, bear in mind that she voted for a (heavily defeated) proposal to stop abortion providers like Marie Stopes counselling women, and is on record as being in favour of defining homophobia, racial hatred and prejudice as ‘freedom of speech’.

Beyond that, we’re into comedy territory. For example, Mid Wales Labour member Ryan Myles said: “Apparently David Cameron was planning on moving Eric Pickles but couldn’t afford the crane.”

All in all, it’s been a wholesale replacement of anybody with talent, by idiots. The tweeter who identifies himself with Yes Minister lead character Rt Hon Jim Hacker MP summed it up perfectly: “Expected a night of the long knives, may just be a morning of insignificant pricks!