24 May 2009

Decisions, decisions ...

Imagine you're the Prime Minister. You don't like taking decisions at the best of times, which is why you are known as something of a ditherer. Nor do you like open rows with your Cabinet colleagues (although you have absolutely no qualms about your acolytes silently wielding the knife); thus, wee Hazel is alternately condemned for her "unacceptable behaviour" and praised for doing a good job.

But now you're faced with the need for a Cabinet re-shuffle in the days following the Euro elections in two weeks' time. Everyone (the media, the party, the opposition) is expecting it; if you funk it now, you will be in even worse trouble. But it's not that easy.

Take wee Hazel, aka the Dead Chipmunk Walking (copyright Benedict Brogan of the Daily Telegraph). She has now paid the equivalent of CGT on that second home she sold, admittedly only after she was found out and although there remains some doubt as to whether the Inland Revenue can or will accept it. And she did still profit from capital gains on a property acquired with assistance from public funds. Besides, you said yourself that her behaviour was "totally unacceptable". Can you possibly retain her in Cabinet, while throwing the occasional backbencher to the wolves, arguably for lesser offences? (And what about her cheeky chum Caroline?) On the other hand, if she were sacked or demoted, would you not have to do something similar to Hoon and Purnell who are arguably - at least in the eyes of the public and the party - equally guilty in terms of CGT avoidance? And that pair of miscreants appear to have been joined in the dock this morning by Andy Burnham whose complicated saga is exposed in The Sunday Times. Furthermore, Mr Darling and his serial flipping cannot be regarded as entirely out of the wood.

Then there is the problem of Peter (whose second home claims after he had resigned as an MP means that his hands are not entirely clean either). The real problem is that Peter is insisting on proceeding with the partial privatisation of the Royal Mail, even if it means relying on the Tories to ram it through the Commons. You are desperate to move him to somewhere less controversial but the only job he will accept is Foreign Secretary. But that would upset David who would turn his nose up at being Home Secretary (as, thankfully, Jacqui has "agreed" to step down).

And all this would have to be sorted out before you got to the level of the Ministers of State wherein lie some equally messy problems.

Life as Prime Minister can sometimes be a bed of thorns.

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