Commentary on the Ministerial reshuffle has
generally taken the view that the changes are more about
presentation than policy. Leaving the three top positions of
Chancellor, Home and Foreign Secretary untouched seems to signal
that no major change of direction is planned.
Grant Shapps' promotion and Andrew Lansley's removal from Health
have both been interpreted as being about communication skills -
Shapps has them and Lansley does not, it would seem.
Government policy on the NHS will not change, but be better
presented. The only obvious chink in this argument is Justine
Greening's move from Transport which seems intended - in Boris
Johnson's view, at least - to clear the way for a change of tack on
an extra runway at Heathrow.
However, as one or two perceptive commentators have written,
there are good reasons to suppose that if David Cameron were
planning a change of direction, he might not want to make it too
sudden or too obvious.
Publicly dropping deficit reduction in favour of Plan B would be
tantamount to admitting that the Opposition has been right all
along. Better to use the reshuffle to signal that nothing has
changed even if the planned £60 billion initiative to stimulate
housing and infrastructure investment says otherwise. The
team has not changed much, but only time will tell how different -
if at all - are the coalition's game plan and tactics during the
second half of its term.
Enter Mark Prisk. He does not come with a brief to rewrite
housing policy, nor with any obvious axe to grind. But he
does arrive at a moment when the government is acutely interested
in what housing can do to reboot the economy. It is up to
ARCH to show him how councils with housing can help, and what more
we could do with a fair wind from government.