Cabinet reshuffle press reaction: Michael Gove's 'demotion' and women in power

Day two of the cabinet reshuffle sees most papers focusing on what the prime minister insists is not a "demotion" of Michael Gove.

However, the papers don't see it that way. As far as they're concerned, he was variously "ousted" (Daily Express), "knifed" (Daily Mail/Daily Mirror), "sacrificed" (Daily Telegraph) and "axed" (The Times).

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Some papers say his reputation among voters cost him, with the Mirror reporting: "Mr Gove was ditched after internal Tory polling suggested he had become a 'hate figure' who could cost the party a second term in government." For the Sun, he's the victim of a "hysterical, absurd and undeserved" hate campaign by teachers' unions. Daniel Johnson, editor of current affairs magazine Standpoint, argues in the Mail that Mr Gove's only sin was "wanting to make children learn".

In the Guardian, Patrick Wintour says it's an "easy, but false" explanation to blame his alienation of the teaching unions, arguing that Mr Gove had "burned too many bridges". The Telegraph's James Kirkup agrees that Mr Gove "picked one fight too many", having branded the educational establishment "the blob", baited with his Lib Dem coalition partners, clashed with his own choice of schools inspector and criticised Home Secretary Theresa May.

Independent education editor Richard Garner says: "Some of his reforms have genuinely benefited pupils, but others have taken a good idea and wrecked it by his blinkered determination to push it to extremes." And his Times counterpart Greg Hurst writes that Mr Gove's successor Nicky Morgan faces a "difficult balancing act", saying: "She must change tone without changing pace, reach out to teachers without conceding to pressure to stall the coalition's school reforms."

Meanwhile, her predecessor - described by the Independent's Matthew Norman as "the [Brazilian footballer] David Luiz of politics" (attacking flair, but prone to schoolboy offensive howlers) - is destined to become chief whip, which prompts Times sketchwriter Ann Treneman to comment: "I immediately thought of 50 Shades of Grey."


Style and substance

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While the Independent's Donald MacIntyre says the reshuffle doesn't quite match up to Harold MacMillan's brutal 1962 "Night of the Long Knives", which saw six cabinet ministers fired, the Mirror describes it as a "Night of the Long Wives" in a reference to the promotion of 10 women.

Former Conservative MP Louise Mensch writes in the Sun that it's "anything but" a gimmick, reminding readers: "All the women promoted yesterday were only elected four years ago. If you want somebody to be a minister, still more in the cabinet, they actually do need experience."

However, the Guardian's Anne Perkins argues that the "Downing Street spin operation" has been "treating the entire process as a media management exercise intended to reverse the impression that Cameron has a problem with women". She adds: "Instead it confirms it. It diminishes the women who have been promoted to find themselves branded as token appointments in a piece of extended stage management."

The Express's Macer Hall writes: "Many Tory MPs of both sexes are irritated by the charge of tokenism and see Nicky Morgan and fellow cabinet newcomer Elizabeth Truss as formidable talents reaching the higher ranks on merit."

Offering a "woman's guide to surviving in cabinet" in the Times, ex-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith says the female ministers "must be on their guard against sexism". She adds: "Most irritatingly, your clothes and appearance will be commented on. Most of the time, you need to dismiss this as sexist nonsense."

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail's Catherine Ostler gives her "style verdict" on the new appointments which examines Employment Minister Esther McVey's lipstick, dress and hair, Environment Secretary Liz Truss's "patriotic" red, white and blue ensemble and Claire Perry's wedges and "statement necklace".


Drawing inspiration

The reshuffle offers fertile ground for cartoonists, with the Telegraph's Matt imagining a cabinet meeting where the women declare: "I think the men should leave us now while we discuss politics."

The Mail's Mac pictures a young maid in a short skirt dusting the prime minster's office, while Samantha Cameron asks her husband: "Be honest, David. Have you reshuffled old Mrs Scroggins?"

Taking note of William Hague's voluntary move from the Foreign Office, where he'd recruited celebrity backing for a campaign to end sexual violence in conflict, the Daily Express's Paul Thomas imagines the PM saying to Mr Hague: "Let me guess - you want to spend more time with Angelina Jolie?"

The Guardian's Steve Bell pictures Michael Gove sitting, arms aloft in surrender, on the slain body of outgoing cabinet minister Ken Clarke as David Cameron points a rifle at him with the words: "Remember, this is NOT a demotion!"

Under the title "Chief Whip", the Telegraph's Adams sketches the PM whipping his former education secretary into his new role. Dave Brown, in the Independent, pictures Mr Clarke and Mr Hague as pigs on their way to the "Westminster Knackers", while a porcine Mr Cameron puts on lipstick and a piglet version of Mr Gove dances with pom-poms and a "Team Dave" cheerleader outfit.

Meanwhile, Peter Brookes, in the Times, alludes to the debate over assisted dying by picturing the PM with a pillow behind his back and telling Mr Gove: "It's curtains for you, Michael. Should you need any assistance..."


Dying debate

With a Lords debate taking place on Friday, arguments for and against assisted dying continue to keep letters page editors busy. Meanwhile, on its front page, the Guardian reports that 27 leading doctors - including 11 present or former presidents of royal medical colleges - have written to every peer urging them to back Lord Falconer's bid to allow doctors to help terminally ill patients who are suffering "unendurably" to end their lives.

However, the Mail finds leaders of the Catholic Church, Church of England and the Jewish faith putting their names to a joint letter to "plead with Parliament" for just the opposite. Despite the stance of Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, above, the Times reports that "church leaders are out of touch with their congregations on assisted dying", quoting research that found about 70% of believers supported a change in the law.

Similarly, an online poll conducted by the Mirror finds 84% of respondents in favour of legalising assisted suicide.

However, there is no consensus among columnists. Ann Widdecombe, in the Express, argues that former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, who at the weekend dropped his opposition to the Assisted Dying Bill, is "misguided". She points to an increase in the divorce rate since the Divorce Act was passed in 1969 and the use of modern terror legislation to "enforce parking restrictions" as evidence that laws aren't always used in the way they're intended.

But in the Times2 supplement, Carol Midgley recalls visiting a man with Parkinson's disease on the day he took his own life with the help of Switzerland's Dignitas organisation. Despite still being able to walk, having a "razor-sharp" mind and good appetite, she writes: "Thanks to the laws that make assisted suicide illegal he had to kill himself now while he was still in good enough health... Whenever I hear someone loudly oppose the move to legalise assisted suicide, citing the 'sanctity of life', I wonder if they ever consider how many people the current law drives to a premature grave."


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