May 22, 2013
British PM Cameron to shake up gov't
LONDON — British Prime Minister David Cameron is making the first radical overhaul of his Cabinet since taking office, amid a stalled economy and following a series of humbling policy reversals.
Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, whose Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties formed a coalition government in May, 2010, are expected to announce a new team today that includes several younger legislators.
Promotions are expected for lawmakers who are skeptical about ties with Europe and are prepared to back additional cuts to welfare payments. The coalition government may also scrap its opposition to expanding London’s Heathrow airport.
WHY DOES HIS GOVERNMENT NEED A SHAKE UP?
Britain’s economy has slipped back into recession for the first time since 2009 — with some analysts suggesting the government’s plan to seek 81 billion pounds (US$130 billion) in public spending cuts is choking off prospects for growth.
A disastrous annual budget in March led to a series of policy reversals, denting the government’s credibility. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne had to ditch a planned 20 percent tax on hot snacks — which came to be known as the pasty tax — amid a public revolt.
Last month, Cameron abandoned a pledge to transform Britain’s unelected House of Lords into a mainly-elected 462-seat chamber by 2025, due to fierce opposition from members of his own Conservative party. The 700-year-old body currently has about 775 working members, a mix of political appointees, peers who inherited a place and a few religious officials.
THE BIG DECISION
Cameron must decide whether to ditch Treasury chief Osborne, a friend who is also his closest political ally.
Osborne has taken the heat for the bungled budget and for the government’s failure to lift the gloomy economic outlook. He has already warned that Britain will likely need two more additional years of government austerity policies after the 2015 national election — a prospect that will dent the chances of a Conservative victory.
WHO FEARS THE AX?
Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, who joined Parliament in 1970, could be asked to step aside. The 70-year-old has angered some party colleagues over his long-held enthusiasm for European ties and recently ran into trouble when he suggested that some rapes were more serious than others.
The 41-year-old Sayeeda Warsi, the first female Muslim to serve in a British Cabinet, may lose her post as Conservative Party chairman and a roving Cabinet minister.
Despite his success in handling the London Olympics, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, 45, could also be shifted after criticism over his close ties to James Murdoch, media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s son.
Transport Secretary Justine Greening, 43, may be moved if Cameron plans to reverse his policy and allow a third runway to be built at London’s beleaguered Heathrow Airport.
WHO ARE TIPPED TO RISE?
Housing minister Grant Shapps, 43, is a confident speaker tipped for promotion, while Maria Miller, the 48-year-old minister for disabled people, is expected to get a new high-profile job.
New lawmaker Claire Perry, 48, could win a post after her successful campaign aimed at restricting access to Internet pornography.
Jo Swinson, a 32-year-old Liberal Democrat who campaigned against the use of airbrushed or unrealistic images of women in the advertising industry, is also expected to be promoted.
WHO MIGHT BE MAKING A COMEBACK?
Liberal Democrat David Laws may return to the Cabinet. Laws, 46, stepped down as chief Treasury secretary — the second ranking minister in the Treasury — in 2010 after he admitted that he had claimed taxpayers’ money to pay rent to his long-term partner, which is banned under Parliamentary rules.