George Eustice: Reshuffle headache looms for Cameron

With summer drawing to a close, the inevitable reshuffle speculation has begun.

George Eustice:Pressure for a reshuffle is high
George Eustice:Pressure for a reshuffle is high

One of David Cameron's critiques of Tony Blair was that he had too many reshuffles. I remember one speech by Lord Adonis where he pointed out that Britain had had some 45 transport secretaries since the war, meaning that each lasted, on average, less than 18 months, despite the fact decisions regarding transport infrastructure need commitment to the long term.

Cameron has generally been averse to reshuffles, believing that there is a premium in giving ministers time to master their brief, and work out how their department runs and who they can trust to get things done.

But the media love reshuffles and the more dramatic they are, the better the story. They have hours of fun setting speculative hares running and later presenting their own inaccuracies as a change of position on the part of the Prime Minister.

The Government has had a series of knocks since the Budget so the pressure for a reshuffle is high. While mid-term is as good a time as any to review who is best placed to run each department, in reality, the value of shuffling the pack is probably exaggerated.

The PM will undoubtedly have formed views about the strengths and weaknesses of all those around his top table, but he will have to balance those against the risks of trying new people who will have their own weaknesses and will need to start from square one.

Handling the media around a reshuffle is always a challenge. First, a press secretary cannot comment on speculation, however inaccurate, or they end up giving a running commentary. On the day, the PM's private office must carefully choreograph the order in which they meet people. Some will decline the jobs they are offered, forcing a rethink mid-stream.

You can't confirm someone has been given a position until you have told the person whose job they have been given. But it leaks anyway. Those who have been sacked or passed over can become resentful and all this is complicated by coalition. The PM should enjoy his holiday before embarking on it.

George Eustice is Conservative MP for Camborne and Redruth and a former press secretary to David Cameron.

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