Michael Moore must be thinking today that politics can be brutal. As Scottish Secretary, he thought he’d done the job “pretty effectively” – but all he gets is the thanks of his party leader and the long walk to the back benches, the only cabinet minister on the Lib Dem side of the coalition to lose his job. He is replaced by the party’s former chief whip, Alistair Carmichael. Understandably, he’s “very disappointed” at the decision but has the grace to wish his successor well.
The reasons for the change are explained in the letter from Nick Clegg. In it, he praises the MP for not only having “successfully piloted through legislation to enable Scotland to take a major step towards the party’s long held goal of Home Rule, but you have also ensured that the referendum next year will give the Scottish people a clear and decisive question on which to cast their vote.
“It should be recognised that you secured both the Scotland Act and the Edinburgh Agreement in the context of a majority SNP government at Holyrood, and against a backdrop of an external political narrative that often suggested the legislation would fail and a referendum agreement could not be secured.”
But he went on to say that he believed that the party and indeed the coalition now needed “to draw on different experience in the final year running up to the referendum itself and I am keen that just as we have benefited from your formidable skills over the past three years that we take advantage of other experience within our ranks during this period.” Mr Moore was appointed Scottish Secretary three years ago.
After the news broke, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted her “best wishes” to Mr Moore. “A tough opponent but always pleasant,” she said. “He can take pride in the achievement of the Edinburgh Agreement.” This was the deal, reached exactly a year ago, which set out terms for next year’s independence referendum. It was signed with much fanfare by both the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, in Edinburgh.
The exact reasons for Mr Moore’s dismissal aren’t clear at the moment. However, the BBC’s The BBC’s John Pienaar told Radio 5Live that Mr Carmichael was very popular amongst other MPs and was considered to have “a louder voice and bigger boots” than his predecessor.
The change takes place on a day when the Coalition’s leaders are ringing the changes in their teams. David Cameron, a prime minister who is admittedly reluctant to make reshuffles, is trying to broaden the appeal of the Conservative party. In particular, this means offering a higher profile to women and MPs from Northern England. For example, Esther McVey, MP in the marginal Wirral West seat, has been appointed the new employment minister.
Ed Miliband, Labour leader, will also change his shadow cabinet. In anticipation of this, Anne McGuire has already announced that, after five years as first the minister, then the shadow minister for the disabled, it was time to allow someone else to take on the role. The MP for Stirling said she would continue campaigning against an “unprecedented attack” on the disabled by the Government and parts of the media as a backbencher and co-chair of the all-party disability group.