The Prime Minister started his first Cabinet shake-up on Tuesday, in a reshuffle that Downing Street claimed would inject ‘fighting spirit’ into the Government as it approaches the middle of its term.
Open Road associate director Andrew Hobson suggested that Cameron had brought in a team focused on delivery, as a result of troubled reform programmes and confused campaigns such as The Big Society.
‘The first part of the coalition was all about reform,’ he said. ‘Now it is moving to implementation and making it happen. There were questions over whether they needed to pursue this ideological agenda for reform when it wasn’t a good time to do it. ‘The pieces are in place and now it is about implementing the changes.’
Hobson pointed to the appointment of Transport Secretary Justine Greening into the Department for International Development. She replaces Andrew Mitchell, who oversaw radical changes there.
Greening has gained significant column inches recently for her fighting spirit in opposing a third runway at Heathrow.
Despite this emphasis on implementation, sources have suggested that comms skills remain a priority for Cameron, as the Government struggles to get its message across after a disastrous year.
But commentators agreed that while Cameron will be hoping his fresh faces will give the Government a much-needed boost, this will be challenged by the fact that the messaging will remain the same – austerity tempered by a growth agenda.
One source also questioned the appointment of Hunt as Health Secretary. ‘Many will worry whether Hunt is the right man for the job. Over the past two years, the Department for Health needed a communicator and instead had a technocrat. Now it needs a technocrat/implementer and has got a communicator.’
The reshuffle came after a week in which Chancellor George Osborne was booed when presenting medals at the Paralympics, illustrating the growing gulf between the Government and the public over its economic messaging.
It also comes amid concerns that Cameron’s top team of political and comms advisers is dwindling (see below).
Gabby Bertin to stay with Cameron until end of year
Despite media reports that Cameron’s spokeswoman has already gone on maternity leave, PRWeek understands that she is not set to do so until the end of the year.
Downing Street is believed to be working on a plan for Gabby Bertin’s replacement, which comes after the loss of Andy Coulson and Steve Hilton from the Prime Minister’s team of trusted advisers.
One well-placed source said: ‘The truth is that they haven’t made a call on what happens next. Obviously, the hole she will create is impossible to fill.
‘Someone who knows the PM and his wife and family as intimately as Gabby is hard to find.’
It is understood that no new Downing Street comms appointments are planned, although some new faces are expected in Cameron’s policy unit, where vacancies are not yet thought to have been filled.
Meanwhile, as the Prime Minister drew up his plans for his new Cabinet, industry sources told PRWeek that several special advisers were fine-tuning their CVs in preparation for the reshuffle.
Several special advisers are thought to have renewed contact with their former employers, many of which are PR and lobbying firms.