Overall I think the reshuffle will serve a positive purpose, which is to enable the Conservative Party to establish its sense of uniqueness within the coalition and allow us to distance ourselves from the misguided priorities of the Lib Dems as we approach the next General Election, but there are some areas where I have concerns.
But first - the good stuff. I think moving Kenneth Clarke away from the Justice Ministry is a good thing. I always felt he was a bad fit. I am not a right-winger in my party by any sense, but I think my views - that we should punish hard and rehabilitate hard - are similar to those of most people. It was a notion that was alien to Ken Clarke and putting someone in with a slightly different ethos has to be a good thing. But I think Cameron played a masterstroke by keeping Clarke on as a Minister without portfolio - it is a great way of making sure he still uses his many skills.
The two areas I have concerns about are Andrew Lansley and Tim Loughton. I fear that Andrew Lansley has been used as a bit of a whipping boy (and the fact that he was moved rather than sacked suggests that David Cameron is aware of this). Whilst I know there are many who have concerns about the NHS reforms there are things within it that have the potential to make huge differences in the medium to long term. The problem with our NHS is that it is largely a treatment system; broadly speaking, we spend huge amounts reacting to illness rather than preventing it. As an example, hospitals are funded by activity - treating illness, when if some of that money was pushed upstream, it could be used to deal with the underlying causes of that illness - which would save money in the long term and be better for people's health. The changes introduced by Andrew Lansley, such as the move of Public Health into local authorities and the creation of Health and Wellbeing Boards have huge potential to achieve those ends, to break down the funding silos that exist in the public sector and make our health system more affordable by making us a healthier Nation. Time will tell, but whilst his fights with some (not all, not by a long long way) health professionals have left him and the process scarred, I suspect in three of four years time people will start to understand and see the benefits.
The decision to remove Tim Loughton as Minister for Children and Families is one that I just can't fathom. I got to know Tim Loughton when I was Lead Member for Children at the County Council. Tim consistently proved he understood the issues around Children - and he dug around and questioned so he could get a bottom up understanding of those issues (that need for bottom up understanding something that I bleat on about a great deal - it is vital for good delivery) and he had won the respect of the professionals in Children's Services as well as local politicians of all colours. As a Minister he has done a huge amount to deliver - such as through his efforts to speed up adoption processes. I hope David Cameron has thought long and hard about who he puts in this post, it is a role that is there to ensure that we improve the lives of our most vulnerable children, it takes someone with passion and understanding to deliver in this area.