The current speculation about a cabinet reshuffle demonstrates one of the major weaknesses of British politics: we are far more interested in personalities, who is going "up" and who is going "down," than we are in policies.
However, just to indulge that proclivity for a few sentences, I'm not too keen on the expected return of David Laws to the heights. He is after all one of the Liberal Democrat coalition negotiators who failed to spot that a concession to abstain on a rise in student fees was not sufficient when we had "pledged", oh so publicly, to vote against it, and that a Conservative promise to introduce measures for electoral and House of Lords reform was not the same as a promise to vote for them. It would be far preferable to bring seasoned campaigners of an older generation: Ming Campbell, Aan Beith or Simon Hughes. This would add much needed gravitas to the government and take away the impression that the country is being run by a bunch of inexperienced amateurs.,
Moving on to the much more serious business of policy, it is now perfectly clear that George Osborne's Plan A of ending the recession by cutting back state expenditure in order to allow the private sector to expand is having precisely the opposite effect, as we Keynesians have predicted all along. The change which would transform both the coalition's prospects and the nation's economic health would be to sack Osborne and Alexander and replace them by Ken Clarke and Vince Cable*. That will require our prime minister to show political and personal courage.
A friend and former colleague of mine, Stuart Archer, has just written an (as yet unpublished) essay on the role of public schoolboys in the Great War. He writes that much emphasis was placed on their sense of honour, duty, patriotism and character. These young men, often only 18 or 19 were expected to be " first over the top by two or three seconds, in distinctive uniform and carrying only a pistol and a stick. They were easily picked off by the enemy." The subsequent memorials in their public schools " stressed sacrifice and duty, the transfer of skills and pluck learnt in games to the battlefield, and above all patriotism and the desire to serve one's country."
It would be an analogy too far to compare our present circumstances with the horrors of the First World War, but there is nevertheless a need for courage , and for the sacrifice to be shared by the whole of society, not just the bottom 20%. So come on, David Cameron, show a bit of the "pluck" you allegedly learned on the playing field of Eton, be prepared for a bit of embarrassment and loss of face for the sake of the nation, and make that change at the Treasury.
* In his article in the Guardian last week Martin Kettle suggests: "Put Ken Clarke or Vince Cable(or both) into the Treasury. "