A successor government that will be engulfed by events rather than be shaping them?

With only two years to go before the next general election, the new Prime Minister’s Cabinet has little chance of setting the agenda in the face of multiple crises which their party colleagues that preceded them have more than a little responsibility for.

And the satirists have started.

…versus the real deal.

“How many of the new ministers have you heard of before?”

…I asked some two months ago as Boris Johnson’s Government imploded around him.

…and here’s Ben Elton from 1990.

Note the lampooning of a then little-known politician called John Major – who went on to defeat Labour in the 1992 General Election. He turned around the Poll Tax Riots of the summer of 1990 into an election victory in May 1992. And that was with the first Gulf War in early 1991 as well. Turning it around in 18 months. A warning from history? (He then lost it all on Black Wednesday later that autumn)

Above – Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer quoted as telling Labour MPs not to under-estimate Liz Truss.

Basically you don’t become Prime Minister by accident.

“What about the new Cabinet?

Each appointment has been widely commented upon in terms of what signals it sends and to whom. Starting with former BBC journalist Jon Sopel:

Which is an interesting move given that her margin of victory was far smaller than many commentators and pundits were predicting. Expectation management and all that. Expect the culture wars/anti-woke theme to continue as well. For example others have picked up:

…and that’s just three of the new Cabinet Ministers heading policy areas that will inevitably polarise opinion.

It’s worth noting that such was the backlash against the appointment of JRM covering the climate portfolio that the Prime Minister has been pressured into giving the climate ministerial portfolio to a separate senior minister of state.

…who happens to be the former Chair of the Education Select Committee, and before then the Conservative Councillor for Cherry Hinton, Cambridge, Mr Graham Stuart MP. (Serving on Cambridge City Council between 1998-2003)

Are such controversial appointments designed to wear down activists and campaigners who oppose them?

I would not be surprised. Time spent opposing proposals that may never actually come to fruition is time not spent campaigning or planning on other things. In that sense it is very disruptive for the Government’s opponents.

At the same time, this cohort of MPs from the 2019 general election is a cohort of Boris Johnson loyalists with their leader now gone – for how long it remains to be seen. With a number of high profile Cabinet Ministers now gone – including the MPs for North West Cambridgeshire & North East Cambridgeshire, it will be interesting to see which ones pitch for select committee seats and whether they will be able to stay in the political spotlight through impressive cross-examination of witnesses that appear before them. Having in-depth knowledge of ministerial life can bring an extra level of scrutiny to any younger and less experienced ministers that appear before them. Such as the new Defra Secretary who has to deal with the sewage scandal and the agricultural fallout from Brexit.

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is only 36 years old. Which is very young for any Cabinet Minister. Mr Jayawardena has been an MP for seven years, and has less than three years of ministerial experience. Now he faces two ‘once in a generation (if not rarer) crises at the same time.

“Will the voters see the multiple crises that could have been avoided?”

That depends on how competent and sharp the opposition political parties are. It’s easy to say “Oh, the Tories have already lost the election” – but as previous elections have shown, the hard part for Labour is convincing the electorate that they look and feel like a government in waiting, with competent, high calibre policy leads ready to step into ministerial office. One of the things longtime journalist Michael Crick is keeping a watch on is party candidate selections

He’s posting regular updates on his Tomorrow’s MPs Twitter account. One of the things he’s been looking out for is former/defeated MPs re-standing, in particular those with past ministerial / shadow ministerial experience. It also lifts the lid on the very messy world of party candidate selections for safe and marginal seats – highly contested and not without controversy and dirty tricks. A number of local politicians in/around Cambridge have told me they wouldn’t dream of standing for Parliament because they’ve seen far too often how all parties have selected weaker candidates who happen to have the right connections or the backing of the most powerful local faction.

First PMQs for the new Prime Minister starts in less 12 hours time. Let’s see what her new Cabinet brings.

In the meantime, I’ve got to get back to looking at local bus service improvement proposals. Speaking of which, I was reminded of something I wrote a few years ago – quick wins on bus improvements. You can head down to The Guildhall on 08 Sept 2022 at 10am or watch the livestream – see the papers here.

If you are interested in the longer term future of Cambridge, and on what happens at the local democracy meetings where decisions are made, feel free to:

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