Errant prime minister Boris Johnson, still trying to divert attention – or blame – away from his (alleged) participation in those lockdown-busting Downing Street parties, has decided to reshuffle his Cabinet.
Many of us predicted that he would carry out a reshuffle to present one or more scapegoats to the public – and save his own alcohol-soaked neck.
But this one seems more a case of Johnson lining up sacrificial lambs – to take the heat off him in the future.
So Jacob Rees-Mogg becomes Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency, even though experience has shown that there are no opportunities arising from Brexit that are worth having.
That being said, the wording of his new title is vague enough that it could refer to opportunities arising from Brexit for a very few, very rich people – those for whom Brexit was originally intended.
As for government efficiency – exactly what does Boris Johnson want his government to be efficient at doing?
Ultimately, This Writer doesn’t think it matters – if public opinion turns against Johnson because of misbehaviour by government personnel, it will be Rees-Mogg’s responsibility; if the cost of living rises further because of Brexit (for example, due to increased bureaucracy at our borders), it will be Rees-Mogg’s fault.
Chris Heaton-Harris becomes the new chief whip, because his forerunner Mark Spencer is replacing Rees-Mogg as Leader of the House of Commons.
Spencer’s appointment has been questioned because he is currently being investigated for Islamophobia after allegations were made by former Tory Cabinet Minister Nusrat Ghani.
Logically he should have been suspended from any position of responsibility, at least until such time as the investigation is complete – not promoted to a position of more responsibility.
Indeed, as Leader of the House, he is responsible for standards of behaviour in Westminster. Doesn’t that make him responsible for the investigation into himself? And isn’t that a conflict of interest?
I think it is.
Paymaster General Michael Ellis takes on some roles currently carried out by the Minister for the Cabinet Office, lifting some weight from Steve Barclay, the incumbent, who Johnson appointed as Downing Street Chief of Staff this week, in addition to his ministerial role and his duties as a constituency MP.
Questions have been raised about Barclay’s ability to carry out three jobs at once, and Ellis’s appointment seems to have been an attempt to address that issue – alongside being a reward for his attempts to defend Johnson from allegations about the Downing Street parties in Parliament.
In agreeing to take on three jobs at once, of course, Barclay has shown that Johnson didn’t learn any lessons at all from the Owen Paterson scandal last year, which was all about MPs having more than one job (although, admittedly, their second and subsequent jobs were outside Parliament, not in it).
So it seems that Johnson is lining the ways of the Cabinet Office with potential fall guys if the government comes under further criticism for letting us all down.
And – crucially – we’ve heard nothing about how putting these people into these jobs will ensure that Downing Street – and the government generally – will clean up its act. Are we just to take it on trust? Only, some of us don’t have very much trust left for Boris Johnson.
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