I’VE never seen the point of reshuffles, which is strange as my wife likes to play that game. Mostly she reshuffles furniture and kitchen cupboards.
Blithely choosing to sit where a chair is usually to be found is no guarantee you won’t end up on the floor.
“There was a chair there yesterday,” I might complain.
“It looks better over there,” she might riposte.
My wife likes to change rooms, putting familiar things in unfamiliar places, and prime ministers like to reshuffle their cabinets, putting familiar faces in unfamiliar places.
The ins and outs always exercise the media in a lazy, routine way. Tired old metaphors are dusted off, allowing the Daily Mail to swing the one above – “At last, Boris wields the axe.”
The Times puts an axe in his hand too. Yet some days Johnson looks as if he could barely wield a custard spoon, never mind an axe.
Meanwhile, the potty old Daily Express blusters: “PM’s ruthless cull to deliver Britain’s future.”
Ah, yes that future, those sun-lit uplands. And another brick in the slogan wall, this one embossed with: “Build back better.”
You may have heard those words fall from the mouths of hapless ministers, shuffled or unshuffled, as they talk about anything and nothing. They probably say it over breakfast, muttering that they are building back a better breakfast with their cornflakes, or something.
It’s fair to guess that Dominc Raab won’t have been impressed about being removed as foreign secretary, especially on finding that Liz Truss got the job.
“Liz Truss! Are you f****** kidding me!”
Whether or not a hole was punched through the Downing Street wall is open to speculation, but Raab does appear horribly cross nearly all the time. He always looks one twitch from fury as his frown darkens and a blood vessel in his forehead throbs like an angry worm.
After Raab went on that holiday to Greece, having been warned Afghanistan was about to fall to the Taliban, he was hauled off the beach and later pictured at his FO desk holding a phone. And when I say ‘holding’, I mean grasping it with such determination he appeared to be weighing up its potential as a murder weapon.
Gavin Williamson was sacked as education secretary, an ejection thoroughly deserved – but how come he was allowed to hang on for so long? His replacement is Nadhim Zahawi, who steps over from a short spell as vaccines minister, coupled with being the go-to minister to appear on the media and bore everyone half to death.
Oliver Dowden is out as culture wars secretary, replaced for reasons of what – mischief, spite, just for the hell of it? – by the reliably appalling Nadine Dorries, whose brief will include the BBC and privatising Channel 4 (a terrible idea she will pursue alongside slagging off snowflakes and so on).
As for Liz Truss, she seems to have been promoted for trundling around the world and bragging about post-Brexit trade deals that were there already but have had a new label slapped on.
Michael Gove, a sort of cut-price Machiavelli in an M&S suit, has been pushed sideways by his old frenemy Johnson to housing, communities and local government, and has responsibility for the “levelling up” agenda, whatever that might be.
You may have noticed, incidentally – and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in York certainly has – that levelling up doesn’t count for people on universal credit who are about to have their £20-a-week uplift removed by Boris Johnson, who seems grotesquely pleased with this cruel move.
Anyway, according to his Twitter account, the prime minister and his reassembled pieces of cabinet furniture will be working “tirelessly to unite and level up the whole country”.
Oh, and yes, they’ll be building back better too, meaningless slogan by meaningless slogan. So that’s all right.