KEITH NEWBERY It takes special talent to turn a crowd nasty

Well, David Cameron’s nothing if not obvious.

When you carry out a cabinet ‘reshuffle’ which leaves all the key posts filled by the same people, it’s rather like trying to alter the flavour of a curry by tinkering with the rice.

Nothing Cameron has done will change the direction of his government or improve the country’s prospects over the next few years – but that was never his intention.

His focus is entirely on winning the next election, and he hopes the minor tweaks and adjustments will improve his party’s chances of success in 2015.

The Conservatives’ mid-term unpopularity was brought home loud and clear to the prime minister when he, George Osborne and Theresa May were booed by the crowd at the Paralympics.

This was not the pantomime expression of disapproval all 
mid-term politicians expect as part of their job.

It was a visceral chorus of contempt by people who had spent the previous week filling the stadium with a rapturous clamour.

Indeed, turning them nasty took a special talent.

This reaction, together with the Lib Dems’ avowed intention not to support the boundary changes which were automatically expected to increase the number of Tory seats at the next election, meant desperate measures were needed.

Out went a wearied and eminently disposable health secretary, Andrew Lansley – a sacrifice intended to appease NHS professionals, up whose nose he had firmly inserted himself.

His replacement, Jeremy Hunt, shows Cameron continues to be influenced more by friendship than ability and I give it less than a year before this vacuous man proves to be one of the most inept to hold the post for many a year.

The increasingly vociferous and restless right-wing of the party was thrown a bone in the shape of Chris Grayling, who takes over as justice secretary and will delight in confronting the European courts head on.

Yet Cameron’s equivocating ways meant he was reluctant to rid himself of Kenneth Clarke completely, instead giving the old blusterer a meaningless but mischief-making role as a cabinet member ‘with a roaming brief’.

But there is a massive flaw in the prime minister’s master-plan.

The cabinet now has even fewer women than before – which means it will continue to be regarded as a vote-losing cabal of uncaring, inconsiderate rich boys.