British PM reshuffles ailing government
LONDON: British Prime Minister David Cameron reshuffled his ailing coalition government on Tuesday, but unpopular finance minister George Osborne was expected to keep his job.
In his first such move since the government came to power two years ago, Cameron is seeking to rejuvenate the Conservative Party element in the cabinet as he looks ahead to the 2015 election.
He began the job by moving a trusted lieutenant Andrew Mitchell from International Development Secretary to chief whip, the government’s enforcer for parliamentary business.
But Cameron has resisted efforts to remove Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer who was roundly booed at the 80,000-capacity Olympic Stadium in east London on Monday when he presented athletics medals at the Paralympics.
Two other key cabinet members, Foreign Secretary William Hague and Home Secretary Theresa May, are also expected to survive despite the coalition government’s dwindling popularity.
The Liberal Democrat junior coalition partners are widely expected to bring former chief secretary to the Treasury, David Laws, back into government.
The well-regarded former banker was forced to quit a cabinet post just after the 2010 election over a row about a housing agreement with his male partner.
Explaining his decision to move Mitchell, Cameron said: “Andrew has done a superb job as Britain’s development secretary. He has made British development policy transparent, focused and highly effective.
“As chief whip, Andrew will ensure strong support for our radical legislative program, by working hard to win the argument in the Commons as well as playing a big role in the No 10 team.”
Sayeeda Warsi was removed from her role as Conservative Party co-chairman despite her pleas to be allowed to continue.
Cameron has faced unrest during the parliamentary recess from within his own centre-right Conservative Party, with one former minister asking whether he was “man or mouse”.
It will be the first proper reshuffle of Cameron’s government since the May 2010 general election that brought him to office.
Cameron cancelled Tuesday’s scheduled cabinet meeting in order to deal with the reshuffle.
The prime minister has vowed to “cut through the dither” and breathe new life into the recession-mired economy with a series of new initiatives in this parliamentary term.
But he has again rejected calls to abandon his government’s policy of focusing on reining in Britain’s deficit through deep cuts in public spending.
A YouGov poll in The Sunday Times newspaper put support for the Conservatives at 35 per cent, centre-left Labour at 41 per cent, the Liberal Democrats at nine per cent and other parties at 14 per cent.
Some 60 per cent thought Cameron was doing badly as prime minister, while 67 per cent thought the coalition was working together badly.