The reshuffle on Monday underwhelmed most observers, partly because Brian Cowen had given indications that there’d be a major overhaul of government. New faces would be introduced, old, tired names dropped and this would reinvigorate the government in the lead into the next election. There was supposed to be a new dawn.
Reshuffles are not common in Ireland and for good reason. They’re not a great idea when you actually don’t have that much choice to get radically different people in. Also, in the UK where reshuffles are common, ministers rarely stay in the same job for a long time. They’ve barely found their way around the place when they’re moved again. But most importantly -as Jim Callaghan the former UK PM observed- the threat of a reshuffle keeps ministers honest for fear of removal and backbenchers loyal in the hope of preferment. After a reshuffle has taken place there is less incentive to stay loyal.
This is particularly the case in Ireland now, where Fianna Fáil is likely to be in opposition after the next election and will in that case, more than likely choose a new leader. What incentive do the Mattie McGraths or the John McGuinness of this world to be loyal to the party leadership now? Even the hyper-loyal younger TDs such as Michael McGrath and Thomas Byrne will be looking to the next leader of the party. Even they’ll become more susceptible to revolt.
If (especially) older TDs want to save their seats, being critical of the government is probably the best option for them. Why would they want to support a budget that increases taxes and takes more money out of the economy? The reshuffle if anything must have shortened the odds on a 2010 election. I wonder how it might pan out.