Cabinet reshuffle: 'illiberal moment' or obstacle removal?

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Opinion Digest: for and against the Cabinet reshuffle, and online sock puppets

LAST UPDATED AT 10:22 ON Wed 5 Sep 2012

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CAMERON SHUFFLES TO THE RIGHT

THE GUARDIAN ON THE CABINET RESHUFFLE

Yesterday’s Cabinet reshuffle was David Cameron’s ‘illiberal moment’, says The Guardian. When he came to power, Cameron offered the novel promise of marrying traditional Conservative economics with a liberal, progressive agenda on everything else, pledging respect for civil liberties, environmental concern, and a reshaped political system. Yesterday’s reshuffle put paid to these noble aims. The changes are chilling, not least the decision to appoint an illiberal justice secretary and an environment secretary who is sceptical over climate change. But most breathtaking of all is the decision to place former culture secretary Jeremy Hunt at the helm of the NHS. Known for hugging corporate power close, he cannot help the government explain that its dubious reforms are not simply commercialisation for its own sake. This reshuffle will stir searching questions for progressives who had previously given Cameron the benefit of the doubt.

OBSTACLES TO CAMERON'S VISION REMOVED

DANIEL FINKELSTEIN ON THE CABINET RESHUFFLE

David Cameron's Cabinet reshuffle was a sensible removal of obstacles, says Daniel Finkelstein in The Times. It is rare, at least in recent times, for prime ministers to attempt a change in their administration’s political direction by altering a ministerial team in the middle of a government. Historically, reshuffles are intended to achieve almost exactly the opposite. They attempt to consolidate the government’s position and put in place ministers who are more capable of understanding and delivering the prime minister’s vision for the country. And this is what Cameron was trying to do this time. Take the example of Jeremy Hunt’s appointment as health secretary. To save the credibility of his reforms, the PM accepted that Andrew Lansley was not the man for the job, and acted accordingly. Cameron’s limited reshuffle achieves important changes, but also reveals a pragmatic understanding that he cannot reshuffle his way out of a dire political and economic situation.

DON'T FEAR THE SOCK PUPPETS

CHRISTOPHER HOWSE ON FRADULENT BOOK REVIEWS

The practice of posting fake book reviews online is “fraudulent and damaging to publishing”? Come off it, writes Christopher Howse in The Daily Telegraph. Known as 'sock puppets', these pseudonymous vehicles are regarded by affronted authors as more wicked than the Wizard of Oz in leading readers astray. But in reality, we all know you shouldn’t believe anything you read online, unless it is authenticated by its own good sense. The practice of reviewing one’s own work pre-dates the internet by a long way. Celebrated authors such as Walter Scott and Walt Whitman were doing it back in the 19th century. Internet governance may be a “juicy bone for academics to gnaw”, but they’re just part of the feral fauna of the world of books: now, as ever, a place of make-believe, greed and low cunning. · 

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