The Guardian view on Boris Johnson’s cupboard: new faces, not a new direction | Editorial

In Westminster it’s typically stated that politics drives the timing of selections. But this week’s reshuffle by Boris Johnson is simply the other: the timing is driving the politics. The prime minister is eyeing an early election, which may come as quickly as 2023. He needs his social gathering to be energised by new faces earlier than his social gathering convention. Mr Johnson’s modifications are not ideological however about ministerial ambitions, accomplishments and personalities. The authorities he leads can have a new character moderately than new direction.

Leaving the cupboard are ministers (Gavin Williamson at training) who have been deemed insufficient, changed by politicians who can level to being profitable (vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi). In phrases of personalities, Nadine Dorries is a rightwing populist with the tradition transient overseeing her bête noire: the BBC. As for personal ambitions, Mr Johnson has elevated a potential successor, Liz Truss, to international secretary.

The consensus is that Mr Johnson has tightened his grip. This appears pointless. The prime minister’s approval score is waning however he stays approach forward of Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer. He has a 80-seat majority in parliament. Brexit has ended the nice ideological rift in his social gathering. Why would Mr Johnson reassert his authority? The answer maybe is that a damaging break up had threatened to open up inside the cupboard earlier this year between Mr Johnson and his chancellor, Rishi Sunak. The prime minister had change into so exasperated together with his fashionable colleague that he thought-about demoting him to well being secretary. Mr Sunak stayed in publish however two of his allies – Robert Jenrick and Oliver Dowden – have been moved.

If Mr Johnson has a large concept, it’s “levelling up” Britain. Yet his authorities has introduced ahead little to handle regional inequality. Unable to show his slogan into vote-winning insurance policies that fireside up voters, Mr Johnson has made Michael Gove the secretary of state for “levelling up”. With a transient that spans electoral reform, the structure, English native authorities and housing, Mr Gove has been made the important thing Tory election strategist. His job will likely be to defend a programme that rhetorically is about spatial equality however in actuality rewards those that vote Conservative and crushes those that don’t.

For Mr Johnson, making coverage is extra necessary than delivering it. He broke a manifesto promise not to boost taxes so the NHS might be funded to convey down ready lists. He thinks the general public will put on this as a result of the money will finally be diverted to pay for a Dilnot-style social care cap. The Tories first pledged of their 2015 manifesto to introduce related measures a year later, however having gained the election the social gathering shelved the foundations designed to stop older folks from having to promote their properties once they go into care.

Mr Johnson appears prone to repeat this ruse by going to the polls earlier than October 2023 when his social care modifications are supposed to take drive. Mr Johnson will ask the general public to belief him. Voters ought to be cautious, given his penchant for dissembling. But they could properly, given a lacklustre Labour social gathering and a post-Covid recovery. Such situations would enable the prime minister to assert he’s coping with the nice issues of the day even when he’s not. He would, crucially, have the ability to root voters’ judgments in emotion and instinct moderately than details and proof. Such a state of affairs appears, sadly, believable. Britain could be worse off for the triumph of a politics the place a number of the individuals are fooled all of the time.

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