Reshuffle aftermath: Right-wingers welcomed to Cabinet

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The two faces of Cameron? Critics claim the progressive Tory from his opposition days is not reflected in the new Cabinet.
The two faces of Cameron? Critics claim the progressive Tory from his oppoition days is not reflected in the new Cabinet.s

David Cameron's new Cabinet will meet today, amid accusations that the government has swung decisively to the right.

The prime minister is facing criticism for an apparent change of direction over Heathrow and a lack of women at the top of government.

On top of that, he faced Ed Miliband in the Commons for the first PMQs since the summer break.

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Labour yesterday branded the move a "no-change reshuffle", although that was not the interpretation of the press, who mostly interpreted it as a swing to the right.

Liberal Tory Ken Clarke was replaced at the Ministry of Justice by authoritarian eurosceptic Chris Grayling; Owen Paterson, a climate change sceptic, took over the environmental brief; Michael Fallon was installed to counteract Vince Cable in the Department for Business; and Maria Miller, who has opposed or been absent from all gay rights votes, was given responsibility for women and equalities.

The Financial Times, the Independent and the Guardian branded the reshuffle a shift to the right, although some other right-leaning publications were more circumspect.

"People make a huge fuss about these things, and in truth what you're looking for is the right people to do the job," new Tory chairman Grant Shapps told Sky News.

Critics also raised concerns about Cameron's failure to put more women into top-flight politics. While Miller, Theresa Villiers and four of the female 2010 intake were promoted, there were demotions or sackings for Caroline Spelman, Cheryl Gillan, Sayeeda Warsi and Sarah Teather, among others.

"I think what you want to do is have the best people for the job, most people would agree," Shapps told ITV's Daybreak, during an epic tour of TV studios this morning.

"We have high-ranking women like Theresa May, Justine Greening is in Cabinet. Sayeeda, who I replaced as chairman is still very much involved - she is very senior at the Foreign Office - and we have these new women coming through like Maria Miller who have come into Cabinet."

Critics mocked Warsi's new job title as a 'senior' minister at the Foreign Office, saying it was a new creation designed to soften the blow of losing the chairmanship.

But perhaps the most furious row centred around Heathrow expansion, with London mayor Boris Johnson emerging immediately after the reshuffle to denounce the sacking of Justine Greening from the Department for Transport as "mad".

The removal of the opponent to Heathrow expansion strongly suggests the Tory party is preparing for a massive U-turn on the issue, so it can enter the next election with a third runway on its manifesto.

"If they have no intention [to support a third runway] the best way to deny the rumours is to keep her in post," Tory MP John Redwood commented on his blog.

"Making her move part of a general reshuffle does not persuade people it was just one of those things, unconnected to Heathrow. Rightly or wrongly they will think it is about that.

"It leads directly to the strong views of Zac Goldsmith and wider issues with handling MPs from both coalition parties who have strongly defended the old policy."

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