New ministers are marching through the corridors of power today with the special ‘I mean business’ walk that denotes an MP who finally has a job they consider important. Meanwhile in Portcullis House, old ministers are trundling about with the sort of gait that denotes a newly sacked, bewildered MP hoping that at the very least they’ll get a decent office with a good view of the Thames as compensation.
As the dust settles from this reshuffle, all sorts of rumours are flying around about who is angry and humiliated after losing their job (e.g. Andrew Lansley and Owen Paterson) or after not being offered the plum promotion they’d wanted (Liam Fox). Backbench MP Stephen Phillips has just held a meeting with the new chief whip Michael Gove to find the source of a rumour sweeping the party that he told Number 10 before the reshuffle that if he was not offered the job of Solicitor General, he would resign as an MP and trigger an awkward by-election. Phillips tells me that ‘it’s total nonsense’ and that he never said such a thing. He was not offered the job of Solicitor General.
But it is fair to say that this reshuffle has increased the number of people who feel less loyal to the Prime Minister and George Osborne. This will not have an obvious effect on party behaviour this side of the election. But it could have a serious impact on a future Conservative-led government as there will be more MPs happy to start scrapping once they’ve seen their party back in to power. One MP with a good sense of how the backbenches work feels that the main beneficiary of this reshuffle has not been George Osborne, who shored up his power base again with promotions for protégés such as Nicky Morgan, but ministers who could, if they’re smart, take on the growing group of MPs who feel they owe nothing to the two men at the top.