Sunday, 17 July 2016

The Rant Mistress takes a stroll along Theresa May's new cabinet

It's like taking a walk along a buffet at a cheap, all-inclusive resort. Some things look like they might be OK but you won't be sure until you take a bite. Some things are instantly repulsive. And some things seem downright weird. I refer of course to the buffet of astonishment that is Theresa May's post-referendum cabinet. Let's take a look at a few of the big appointments, shall we? Forks at the ready.

Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary: Theresa May is trolling Boris. She knows he doesn't want this job as he will have to look Europe squarely in the eye after spending the last few months talking absolute nonsense about the EU and convincing way more people than he ever expected to vote to leave. Did you see him as he walked out of 10 Downing Street after being told he got the job? He looked like a man who'd bitten into a cream bun only to find a lump of coal inside.

Boris is going to have to be diplomatic and not answer questions with a "What ho! How about a nice game of wiff-waff?" or a collection of swallow-the-dictionary words that don't necessarily have to make sense or be relevant. So far, he has managed not to soil himself on camera in response to the Nice terror attack and the Turkish coup attempt but only time will tell if he has the self-control to do this job for any extended period of time without being sacked or forced to resign in disgrace.

He will be forced to look squarely in the eye at the mess his shabby, simple-minded Brexit campaigning has caused.

As Foreign Secretary, he will not be able to be a naughty schoolboy troublemaker plotting away on the backbench. Of course, he may well do something to cause Britain to die of embarrassment but clearly this is a risk May thought worth taking.

Phillip Hammond, Chancellor: He has a reputation as a "safe pair of hands" and a grown-up. He didn't disgrace himself as Foreign Secretary. His appointment is no surprise. He was pro-remain and he has indicated that now is the time to scale back austerity and he is keen to work closely with Mark Carney, the excellent pro-remain Bank of England governor. This will all help him cement his reputation as a sane and sensible choice for the job. Like George Osborne before him, there is a cloud over his tax affairs. This will not be enough to cost him his job. Plus รงa change.

Whether he will find enough money to make up for the many shortfalls that will happen as a result of lost EU funding, a flatlining pound and a shrunken economy where the appetite for investment has faded with post-referendum uncertainty remains to be seen.

Amber Rudd, Home Secretary: She comes across well on television, she was another pro-remain MP and she seems happy enough to have been handed the poisoned chalice that is the Home Secretary job. No matter what you do on the thorny issue of immigration in this job, regardless of where your seat is in the House of Commons, you will either piss off the left or the right and sometimes both at the same time.

Her record as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change was mixed. She was strong on moving towards shutting down coal-fired power stations but she misled Parliament on meeting renewable energy targets. She was correct in moving towards policy that does not rely on state subsidies - this is how the US is doing better than most people realise in terms of using renewable energy - but anyone in this role is going to have to deal with simpletons who are offended by wind turbines.

Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary: Everyone was convinced that this car crash of a man was going to lose his job in the reshuffle. Hell, I think even Hunt thought he'd get the punt because he wasn't humiliating himself by wearing his ubiquitous NHS badge when he walked into Number 10. But, lo and behold, after every NHS campaigner in the country was temporarily excited by rumours that he was going to be sacked spread like wildfire, the failed marmalade mogul emerged still in the same bloody job.

It would have been a golden opportunity for Theresa May to appoint a fresh face to the job, especially as this could have been a clean slate for the ongoing fiasco that is the junior doctors contract negotiations, not to mention the bursary cuts for nursing students. But Hunt remains in place like an incompetent barnacle. There are rumours that others were offered the job but didn't want it. Health, like the Home Secretary job, has become a poisoned chalice for the Tories. Nobody wants to deal with junior doctors, angry nursing students or have the balls to repeal the Health and Social Care Act 2012 so the NHS stops wasting billions administering a corrupt marketised system or tackle the escalating costs of PFI head-on. Health has officially been consigned to the too-hard basket for this government and that is not good news for anyone.

Justine Greening, Education Secretary: Surely, she can't be any worse than Nicky Morgan, can she? While junior doctors will still have to deal with Jeremy Hunt, furious, demoralised teachers may have a chance to develop a healthier working relationship with the government.

Greening was pretty good in the challenging role of International Development Secretary, and she didn't set the world on fire with her brilliance or disgrace herself either when she was interviewed by Andrew Marr this morning. This is a case of wait-and-see.

David Davis, Secretary for Exiting the EU: Like giving Boris the Foreign Secretary gig, this is another of May's attempts to make a Brexiter clean up the mess they made. Today, Davis has already demonstrated he is too stupid for the job. He told Sky News that there may have to be a cut-off point if there is a "surge" in new arrivals from the EU before Article 50 is triggered. Except that until Article 50 is triggered, we are still in the EU and freedom of movement still applies. As a bonus, plenty of Brexiters support freedom of movement as a condition of our new relationship with the EU. So either way, there could be no difference at all in numbers of EU citizens moving to the UK.

Theresa May was criticised by Andrea Leadsom before she bowed out of the Conservative Party leadership contest after proving she was too stupid to be the Prime Minister for using EU citizens as a "bargaining chip" in negotiations. But here's the thing, Andrea. Freedom of movement will have to be a point of discussion in negotiations. To call it a "bargaining chip" is just a pathetic attempt to use semantics to try and appear clever. It failed. And speaking of failure...

Andrea Leadsom, Environment Secretary: And yet another surprisingly Machiavellian attempt by May to embarrass a Brexiter... In this role, Andrea Leadsom, who has already proved to have the intellectual rigour of a jellyfish, will have to face the wrath of Britain's farmers. It is going to be a hoot to watch her try and explain how it'll be OK without around £2.4 billion to £3 billion from the EU each year or what will happen if land prices crash, farmers go out of business and can't sell their properties. But don't worry, I'm sure she'll be great in this job because she is a mother.

Liam Fox, International Trade Secretary: Behold! The most useless man in British politics right now. We can't really do much in terms of trade deals while we're in this post-referendum limbo. And if Theresa May releases the hounds of Article 50, he will then have two years to try and stitch together trade deals with at least 35 countries currently in agreements with the EU. He does know how long trade deals take, right? If not, he is soon going to find out the sheer enormity of this task. Another Brexiter put in their place by May.

Priti Patel, International Development Secretary: Good Lord. The woman is an idiot and a nasty one at that. She is now in charge of a department she wants to abolish, she would support a return to capital punishment and she is on the record as saying that foreign aid should support British business interests.

While it is naive to think that foreign aid is not used to help smooth the wheels of commerce when developing countries start to prosper, it is also important to remember the scandals that this mentality has created. The Pergau Dam scandal, which had its roots in 1988 under Margaret Thatcher meant thousands of pounds of British aid was spent on a white elephant dam project in Malaysia in exchange for a major arms deal. In 1994, the aid project was deemed unlawful by the high court. If Priti Patel oversees a similar scandal, I would not be at all surprised. This is a terrible appointment.

It could be that May wants the Brexiters to see what an economically illiterate experiment they have created by giving them prominent, EU-facing jobs. It may take further economic strife for leading Brexiters to see what a ridiculous idea voting to leave was and this would pave the way for them to be the ones forced to come out and tell the British public that they're now all about remaining in the EU. This would then pave the way for May to use parliamentary sovereignty to not pull the Article 50 lever. Hey presto, we are still in the EU and, ironically, it would be a fine use of parliamentary sovereignty, that very thing Brexiters have been banging on about for months, even those who probably never used the word "sovereignty" before the Daily Mail told them to. This would be a big gamble on the part of May and she would have to be prepared to sit back as job losses happen on her watch, but they will happen in areas that voted heavily to leave. Some dark economic times may be the shock required to stop those who voted leave from deluding themselves.

But despite a few surprises, it is pretty much business as usual for the government. . Theresa May has had a purge with the likes of Michael Gove sent scuttling to the back benches while doing a good impersonation of magnanimity by giving Brexiters jobs, even though they're jobs designed to maximise their workload and their humiliation. We will probably see more schools forced to become academies, the NHS funding crisis will go unsolved and all this against a backdrop of post-referendum uncertainty.

We still have a Conservative government in place and this seems likely until at least 2020, even if an early election is called. If only we had something resembling a credible opposition, eh?

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