Like herpes simplex, Johnson’s ministers had begun to seem like a lifelong condition

A huge week for the Westminster village and its many idiots, then, as Boris Johnson finally got around to shuffling his cabinet. It’s always a thrill to see one’s ministerial bestiary gain some new entries – and, indeed, to rip out a few of its pages as certain featured creatures are deemed either too grotesque or cautionary to retain their spots.

We’ll start with the “in memoriam” reel. The media minister, John Whittingdale, was treated brutally, which he’d at least have enjoyed. Robert Buckland’s culling was unexpected, with the now former justice secretary and lord chancellor finding out at the same time as everyone else that he was about as highly rated as an Airbnb with pubic hair in the soap and claw marks in the cellar.

Less of a surprise was the departure of Gavin Williamson, who has finally been dethroned at education. It was beginning to look like once you had Williamson, you had him for life. Like childhood trauma, or the herpes simplex virus. He’s been replaced by Nadhim Zahawi, whose origin story is being heavily pushed as more impressive than “found in a basket in a Scarborough fireplace”. Gavin now takes his bullwhip and office tarantula to the backbenches – which is not a sentence you can really imagine typing about a previous incumbent of his office, such as Shirley Williams or Tony Crosland, but maybe we get the education secretaries we deserve. In which case, you have to wonder what this generation of schoolchildren were in their past lives. High-ranking Nazis? Lungworms?

Over at housing, the Robert Jenrick statue has been toppled – a reminder that no matter how many quarterwitted articles you write about woke mobs, it’s always possible that one day a snowflake prime minister will decide he simply doesn’t understand your historic value. Jenrick will now be able to spend more time looking at pictures on Richard Desmond’s phone, a sentence I typed wearing extra-strength hazmat gloves.

Anyway: Dominic Raab. I like the way Raab refuses to realise his cabinet career has the life expectancy of a woman who’s just had her lonely hearts advert answered by Dominic Raab. I’m kidding, of course! In fact, when called in to hear that he was being demoted from foreign secretary, Raab is said to have denied to consent and fought back hard, words more normally associated with investigating officers honouring the victim. Dominic now has a full four job titles, which in newspapers is the moment they fit you with your occasional media column and anti-alcohol implant, and farm you out to “oversee” a mentoring programme they’ll cut in six months.

Contrary to reports, meanwhile, Nadine Dorries’s move to culture was predicted – unfortunately, by the Book of Revelation. Former ostrich-anus gobbler Nadine is as at home hallucinating mad cultural assaults – lefties are “dumbing down panto”, she once said – as she is lashing out stingingly at the opposition. “Nicky Morgan owns a £1,000 Mulberry handbag,” Nadine pointed out during Theresa May’s premiership, “but criticised PM’s trousers. Rank hypocrisy.” Nadine’s handbags are all reasonably priced, and useful for clobbering homosexuals.

Even so, I had to balk at the Spectator’s suggestion that Nadine “will oversee a more punchy attitude to the culture war aspect of her brief”. Sorry, but what culture war aspect of her brief?! Psychologists say that if you give a child a present and they end up playing with the box, then the toy you gave them was too complicated for them. If you give a minister a brief that encompasses the entire media, the UK’s data strategy, regulating big tech, 5G rollout, cyber-security, the charity sector, the whole of sport and the £100bn-plus creative industries, and they spend so much as ONE NANOSECOND fanning up some culture war nonsense about panto, that isn’t so much playing with the box as taking a shit in it. And nobody, other than fellow infants, wants to see that.

Dorries replaces Oliver Dowden, who always looks like he’s laughing nervously along with the bully’s joke about him, making it hard not to see his move to party chairman as prime minister Biff Tannen giving him an as-yet-unclear form of wedgie. I guess it’s fitting that Dowden’s back in a party job. He has never had a proper job outside Westminster except for about five minutes at a PR firm, which has denied him the commercial experience that should have rung alarm bells as far as the planned sale of Channel 4 is concerned.

If the government does push ahead with this culturicidal stupidity, they’ll kill the very indie sector the channel largely built – which you’d think would be a massive bollock-drop, but will probably win them public support from Britain’s vast and coveted no-clue-about-business demographic.

And so to the supply chain crisis, a problem which this week was gifted by Johnson to his old backstabber Michael Gove, shortly before Gove was also moved to housing to solve that crisis too, and to work out what in the name of crap you just say to get elected the phrase “levelling up” actually means.

Who else? Ah yes: the new foreign secretary, Liz Truss. No prime minister wants to look in their magic mirror and see that someone else is more popular. Truss is slightly more positive than Snow White, twice as likely to be involved in a musical number with some birds and squirrels, and generally adored by all the many denizens of the Conservative forest. Boris Johnson has moved her from signing trade deals with remote territories to visiting them.

For all the excitement-effect reaction, though, there were an awful lot of non-movers, from Priti Patel at the Home Office to negotiating masterbrain Lord Frost. Many of them seemed to have spent the first part of the week playing not to get sold. Take Thérèse Coffey at work and pensions, whose Who’s Who entry lists her interests as “delivering bad news”, and who rushed out on Monday to defend the planned removal of the £20 universal credit uplift with some nonsense about it being just two hours’ extra work, which indicated that the actual secretary of state had no clue about how the benefit is even designed. Of course, Thérèse knows that it doesn’t matter if what you say is true or not; you just have to come up with any old mad cobblers to draw attention. Is this why the general aesthetic is “Carl Beech in a nice chiffon scarf”? One to consider.

Whichever way you shake it, though, it was all taken very well by the Conservatives, who have spent much of the summer unable to work out if they’re in the shit or in clover. This week was very much clover. As for the electoral black site to which Labour has long rendered itself, that shows no sign of being escaped. Shuffling ministers is vastly preferable, but it remains very difficult to envisage Starmer shuffling anything other than deckchairs.

Comments are closed.