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Day: October 8, 2011

Paddy Ashdown in, Liam Fox out at the MoD?

When David Cameron & Nick Clegg were sitting down to discuss the composition of the coalition cabinet the political hacks informed us that Paddy Ashdown was to become Secretary of State for Defence. The hacks were as we all know wrong but what we don’t know is just how close it was.

Fast forward to the present day and the man who has that job is is real trouble following newspaper allegations into improper conduct between Dr Liam Fox and his former flatmate and close friend Adam Werritty. We have seen though that newspaper storms haven’t yet forced anyone expect David Laws from office. Ken Clarke, Vince Cable and Chris Huhne are all still in the cabinet.

However if these allegations are proved then Fox is gone and we’ll see at least a new Secretary of State for Defence but we may see a larger reshuffle. It is unlikely the Lib Dems will get added cabinet members in a reshuffle so if Paddy is to come into run the MoD like he should’ve been asked in the first place then someone will have to go.

I think most Lib Dems would be happy to let Michael Moore fade into the memory as Secretary of State for Scotland but with the Tories lack of love across the border then that is unlikely. Nick Clegg isn’t going anywhere and nor is Danny Alexander so that leave us with two potential moves outwards from the Lib Dems – Vince Cable or Chris Huhne.

Like most Lib Dems I love Vince Cable but out of all the Lib Dems in the cabinet he has looked the most ill at ease. He has seen part of his portfolio nullified due to the ‘war on Murdoch’ undercover sting but he has survived. On the other side of the ledger Chris Huhne has done a fantastic job as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change but his personal life has brought him nothing but trouble and any day now time could be called on Huhne’s time in the cabinet.

Nick Clegg would without a doubt like to get Paddy Ashdown into cabinet not just because of his wealth of knowledge – certainly at defence – but also because he’s a very popular and prominent Lib Dem who would be seen to be doing the right things. Chris Huhne’s departure would not do damage publicly although in terms of actually doing a job it might be. Vince Cable’s departure would play out worse with the public but not by much.

For the Lib Dems without a doubt getting Paddy Ashdown into the cabinet would be a major coup and a good move all around. Who he’d replace though is very much up for grabs and if there is a big reshuffle then no doubt we’d lose our unofficial sixth Lib Dem as Cameron would want to put a right-wing member of his party into Ken Clarke’s role as Justice Secretary.

Would it be worth allowing Cameron his choice at Justice to get Paddy into Defence? I’m not sure but what I do know is if this reshuffle happens then the one name Lib Dems need to look out for is Paddy Ashdown and not David Laws. If it comes down to just a straight replacement for Liam Fox then it is surely unlikely that Paddy would get the call but who knows. This would be a great time to move Andrew Lansley as well…

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