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Cameron stamps authority on Coalition

David Cameron has today stamped his authority on the Coalition by putting a string of right-leaning Tories into key Cabinet and junior ministerial posts.

The PM has seized back control of defence, the battle for a third runway at Heathrow, and law and order.

In the course of one day, he’s dished out quite a bloody nose to Nick Clegg’s LibDems.

He has moved in the “doers” to government to ensure infrastructure projects and complex policies are delivered in time for them to make a difference before the next General Election.

But he’s also teed up rows with the LibDems by appointing figures from the right to crucial posts who are certain to follow a Conservative agenda.

Three enormous signals about the future have been flashed – a third runway for Heathrow airport is back on the cards, LibDems have been cleared out of defence, and the government’s approach to sentencing criminals will undergo a shakeup.

New justice secretary Chris Grayling is a common sense figure who believes that law-abiding citizens and victims should be supported.

He will be keen to get to grips with the human rights act which is seen by many Tories and voters alike as the reason justice is often turned on its head.

Mr Grayling is a reformer on prisoner rehabilitation. He’ll please George Osborne by arguing that taxpayers’ cash can be saved by ensuring inmates don’t return once their terms are over.

Axing Ken Clarke from the post will delight newspapers like The Sun and the Daily Mail – whose support the PM needs between now and May 2015.

So the ministry of justice move has been brutal but a powerful sign of the PM’s intent.

It will also be fascinating to see how he and Theresa May try to outdo each other to play to the Tory right.

Ex-coal miner Patrick McLoughlin takes over the helm at the Transport department in the clearest possible sign that a third runway at Heathrow is back on the cards.

Two London MPs in Justine Greening and Theresa Villiers were shifted out of the department altogether to make room for the new position.

But Vince Cable, MP for Twickenham and business secretary, will be furious. Mr Cable will fight tooth and nail to stop a new runway at Heathrow.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has wasted no time in expressing his anger at the Premier’s move on transport. Another row is brewing here.

However, the move by Mr Cameron demonstrates that he is prepared to impose his will on Nick Clegg.

The LibDem leader’s decision to threaten boundary changes is being seen as one of the triggers for a much more aggressive reshuffle than originally planned by the Premier.

Critics are already lining up to accuse the PM of lacking the fibre to sack colleagues.

Only three Cabinet ministers were fired altogether from the government – Caroline Spelman, Sir George Young and Cheryl Gillan – and figures like Baroness Warsi were demoted but given baubles like the right to attend Cabinet.

Don’t overlook the importance of the new chief whip Andrew Mitchell.

He is an authoritarian, a former Guards officer with a love of the military discipline.

MPs are genuinely scared of him and putting him in the role sends a clear message – rebellion is not to be tolerated.

This matters because the PM may struggle with a rump of 2005 intake MPs who will find themselves horribly overlooked and without ministerial jobs.

They are mostly in their late 40s or early 50s and will know their ambitions are shattered – too late to build a new career in the private sector, too late to climb the ministerial ladder.

Keeping them interested or loyal between now and May 2015 may prove hard and that’s why Mr Mitchell has been brought in.

Jeremy Hunt will make a good successor to Andrew Lansley at health. Success in the role will do his political ambitions no harm whatsoever.

Mr Hunt is likely to keep faith with the responsibility deal in which firms voluntarily take action on their products rather than being forced into action by regulation.

His style is to state clearly from the off what his policy priorities are.

In any event, delivering the biggest shakeup of the NHS in a generation is the big task ahead. It’ll be more than enough of a challenge to keep him busy.

Mr Cameron had not originally planned to have such a shakeup.

But his summer break – coupled with Mr Clegg’s disloyalty over boundary changes – helped him realise that it was time to take tough and bold action to remind voters and his own MPs where his heart lies.

Coalition government has prevented him from following his party’s agenda as much as he’d have liked.

Michael Fallon’s move into Vince Cable’s BIS department is a reward for an economically dry right winger who is much admired by the Tory backbenches.

Industry will warm to Fallon who is a shrewd operator and someone who can be relied on to speak up for the commercial world.

Maria Miller, a former advertising exec, is seriously liked by the Tory High Command and has long been waiting the call to high office.

Handing her the top job at Culture is a sign that the PM believes there’s an important agenda to be delivered on digital Britain.

She’s smart, industrious and doesn’t drop the ball.

Written By

George Pascoe-Watson