The Secret Seven

Secret Seven! The name evokes disdain or contempt among many readers who are otherwise ardent fans of Enid Blyton … for most of us the Secret Seven happens to be the least revered series in Blyton’s canon. Is this because the books were written for a younger set of readers? Could it be the smaller format? The perpetual scowl on the face of their highhanded leader, perhaps? –In Defence of the Secret Seven

Now the reshuffle’s over, the full Cabinet is thirty-two – sixteen a side, an unprecedented length for a Cabinet meeting as you can see from the table they use (screengrab off the news by Gaz Weetman):

John Dyer writes:

I believe the most important change immediately apparent is the appointment of Grant Shapps as Tory Party Chair in the place of Warsi. He is a key Cameron ally. He is also a strategist, potential relief for Osborne. Osborne struggles to wear the two hats of Chancellor and strategist. Shapps can provide relief without threat. It is possible (colour me skeptical) Clarke’s appointment may also help relieve the embattled Chancellor.

The spin on these changes is, Cameron wants “better communicators,” not policy change. BBC opines the moves are more political problem solving than signals of change.

I agree that Grant Shapps/Michael Thomas is in charge of Tory party campaigning because he’s a “communicator” – an Internet marketer better known for sleaze and spin. This is who will be trying to convince us to buy Tory in 2015.

But Grant Shapps/Michael Green isn’t part of the inner Cabinet. When thirty-two people meet, even if each of them just takes two minutes to speak, an hour has passed and usually very little has been done. There is an inner circle of seven who attend the real meetings, six men, one woman – Theresa May, the new Home Secretary. William Hague is also in the group (unshuffled: he’s still Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, despite the awkward thing with the Ecuador embassy) and so is Iain Duncan Smith (unshuffled: still Secretary of State for the DWP).

Naturally George Osborne, unshuffled and unperturbed as Chancellor presiding over the slide into the depths for the British economy, and Michael Gove, unshuffled and unworried as Secretary of State for Education, are part of the inner circle. And Philip Hammond, who went from being the Transport Minister to Secretary of State for Defence last year after Liam Fox came out.

In fact, in all the changing of chairs at the table, the only two in the inner circle who have changed seats are Theresa May, who gets to abandon her post as Women and Equalities Minister, and the seventh member, Ken Clarke, for whom Minister Without Portfolio may be seen as the best way to include in Cabinet a man now in his seventies.

In the Secret Seven. David Cameron himself would be Peter. George Osborne is Janet. William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith are Colin and Jack. Theresa May is Barbara: Michael Gove is Pam: and Philip Hammond is George. Ken Clarke would be “the Inspector” who “plays a vital role in ending the stories on a happy note”.

You’d think Nick Clegg is Scamper, but I think that’s Grant Shapps – always well-trained and digging for clues at exactly the right point. But most of the Cabinet – and certainly all of the Lib Dems – are Susie and Bony and Binkie.

Peter decides to call a meeting.

“Susie and me too?” said Binkie, thrilled.

“No,” said Peter. “Only the Secret Seven.”

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