This must be the worst reshuffle since Mrs Thatcher demoted Geoffrey Howe in 1989. Unlike that one, its errors are unforced. This year, David Cameron had established a surprisingly strong position as the leader whose unpopular but necessary policies were starting to work. He and his team seemed steadier and more able than their opponents. Now he has thrown that away with changes so large that he looks as if he disrespects what he has achieved.
He has singled out for punishment those ministers who were brave and active — most notably Michael Gove and Owen Paterson, demoting the first and sacking the second. Thus he emboldens all those pressure groups who hate the Tories and sends out a message that no one who wants a ministerial career should have a serious interest in his or her subject. He has also target-bombed his party’s natural supporters — rural voters, Eurosceptics, non-greens and people who are out of sympathy with his metropolitan preoccupations. He has dismissed the only two cabinet ministers (Paterson and the Welsh Secretary, David Jones) who voted against single-sex marriage.
By getting rid of Paterson, in particular, he has turned his strongest cabinet bulwark against Ukip into a powerful enemy. Even his promotion of women, itself a welcome trend, is hypocritical, because no women have got nearer the beating heart (if one can apply that metaphor to such cynics) of this government. The dreary frivolity of it all has really surprised me.
And Charles Moore was just getting warmed up. His full column appears in the new Spectator (below). For three months full access for just £12 click here