How long will the Lib Dem grass roots allow Nick Clegg to stay in a coalition where right wing Tory backbenchers call all the shots? David Cameron has had to placate them this week and his Lib Dem partners just look on in dismay.


I don’t think enough has been said about the sacking of Ken Clarke, for that is what it is. I know he can still attend Cabinet as Minister Without Portfolio. Without power or influence more like. I’m surprised he didn’t resign outright. For a man who has been Chancellor and Home Secretary to hang on in this way is undignified. It gives a cloak of respectability to what has really happened.


The last Tory with a sane view on our relations with the European Union (and prison policy) has been removed. So now the decks are clear for the vicious circle to accelerate. The anti EU press will continue to mislead the public about Europe, the politicians will respond and before we know it we will be having an in-out referendum. The nation will vote to come out of the EU, then stand by for an economic slump that will make this one look like prosperity.


But back to the reshuffle and further evidence of a swing to the right. The new Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has been brought in to smooth the way for a third runway at Heathrow which will ignore the strong case to develop our regional airports. Promises of this being the greenest government yet were already withering, and that’s set to continue with Owen Paterson in charge at Environment. By the way hard luck to Liverpool’s Peter Cranie on not getting the leadership of the Green Party this week.


Sayeeda Warsi is another Cabinet Minister who should have made a clean break. The former Tory Chairman has taken a minor job at the Foreign Office. It’s a blow for ethnic minority representation in the government. I liked her down to earth approach and she impressed a gathering of Tory grass roots members meeting in Liverpool recently. It’s a shame.


Tory talent in the North West has been almost totally overlooked by the Prime Minister with the exception of the spiky and talented Esther McVey. The Wirral West MP is a rare asset for the Conservative Party. A media savvy business woman from Merseyside she’s got an interesting first job in government. She’s a Minister at Work and Pensions. The Secretary of State Iain Duncan Smith refused to move and will fight to implement his universal credit benefit system. The Treasury is worried about the new system’s dependence on a vast computer network. We know from past experience that central government and big computer systems mean a big price tag and almost certain failure.


McVey is the only North West promotion. What about Pendle’s Andrew Stephenson, Preston North’s Ben Wallace and Lancaster’s Eric Ollerenshaw. He’s an older politician with good local government experience. Instead Eric Pickles is rewarded for his abolition of the North West Development Agency and more seriously the Audit Commission with an extension of his term. I suppose his value is as a bit of northern rough among the southern posh boys.