Here are some notes on how to shuffle. That bearded and decent-seeming chap attempting to run the Labour Party may wish to take note.
The first thing to remember is that the reshuffle is a curious political card trick. Pull it off and a deft replacement of roles makes a party look stronger and on the ball. Get it wrong and half the cards end up on the floor and the shuffler in chief looks incompetent.
Remember that a reshuffle is a “look at us moment” – an attempt to draw attention away from the other side and remind people of your superior competence.
So make it quick and brutal. Make it efficient and cruel. Let the long knives draw blood if necessary. Don’t just fumble with the butter knife. Don’t bumble and blather. Don’t elevate indecision into an art form. And don’t drag the whole affair out for a wearying 34 hours and 13 minutes. That’s not a reshuffle. It’s a slow-motion shambles.
Remember you have brought this on yourself. You thought it would make you look stronger and more in control. If the trick leaves you with a fumbled pack in one hand and a smeared butter knife in the other, it hasn’t worked.
This is especially so if your party is the one most newspapers love to punch. Make a mess of your reshuffle and they will have you for breakfast. Turn this people-moving sprint into knee-busting marathon and even your friends will turn on you.
If members of your team who haven’t been moved decide to resign in protest over those who have been shuffled off, then you have probably ruined your card trick.
If your chief ally dismisses those who’ve walked away in a political huff as “part of a small right-wing clique”, the outside world – you know, those voting people – will sigh and wonder again about politicians and the ridiculous things they say.
And mostly importantly, get your trick right. Learn how to deal. Or deal with the consequences.
Dealing with the consequences is what the Labour Party is having to do right now. That reshuffle was a disaster, and a pointless, self-inflicted disaster at that.
It has left the party looking divided and inward-facing, trapped in a circle like cowboys in an old western. But instead of pointing the guns outwards at the enemy, they are shooting each other, while the bearded, decent-seeming sheriff is raising his voice to little effect, and could even end up being hit in the fratricidal crossfire.
When you’ve messed up it is often wise to heed the words of your enemies rather than your friends. So perhaps Jeremy Corbyn should read what the Daily Telegraph has to say today.
The newspaper says it is tempting to regard Labour as a sideshow, but adds “the government only has a narrow Commons majority, and who knows what circumstances might arise that could conceivably put Mr Corbyn in Downing Street. Fortunately, the events of the past few days have made that prospect more remote.”
Some of us might wish to drop an “unfortunately” into that extract from the Tory-graph. But the point surely stands. Nothing that has happened this week makes Labour seem like a viable governing party. More’s the pity.