The National:

CABINET reshuffles are the political equivalent of a band playing Proud Mary at a wedding. They whip everyone up into an excitable lather for their short duration, but then the wheels of politics keep on turning and everyone moves on. They’re nobody’s favourite, but they make for good spectator sport insofar as they last.

Soon thereafter the new Secretaries of State get their feet under their respective Whitehall desks, while those relegated to backbench life without ministerial limos contemplate future irrelevance, revenge or political comeback.

In 2013 the late cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, appearing before a Commons Committee conducting a rather pointless inquiry into reshuffles, was asked whether these events ever made much of a difference in terms of government policy or practice.

“Not really” shrugged the Head of the Civil Service — not really in terms of policy direction, or poll ratings, or the strength or the credibility of the government.

READ MORE: 'A reshuffle is not the story': MPs suggest real motive for Tory Cabinet changes

Today’s reshuffle is unlikely to go down as one for the ages. It is not Macmillan’s Night of the Long Knives and seems temperate even in comparison to Boris Johnson’s shakeup of February 2020.

It’s a lick of paint, not a refurbishment, and it has everything to do with presentation and internal party management. For this Tory party, both are inextricably linked to Brexit. No surprise then that Remain-voting Conservative Party chair Amanda Milling was among the first names briefed likely for the chop this morning, before being shown the door mid-afternoon.

Gavin Williamson’s sacking was similarly predictable. Ousted by Theresa May following a national security leak, he never set much of an example for the nine million school pupils for whom Boris Johnson made him responsible. He failed under the pressure of the education brief during the Covid-19 crisis and last year’s exam grades debacle. Even his closest allies are surprised he’s lasted this long.

The National: Justice Secretary Robert Buckland leaves 10 Downing Street, London, after a cabinet meeting

Softie Europhile Robert Buckland (above) was deemed surplus to requirements at the Justice Department, while a few too many tricky questions for Robert Jenrick over planning applications and dodgy donations are, in the blink of an eye, no longer Number 10’s problem.

Michael Gove’s sidewards shuffle to housing would be an insult to someone of his stature in any other year. He may be unlikeable, but he’s smart. He understands the machinery of government and he can get things done. His appointment to this brief indicates where the priorities for Johnson’s regime lie as the UK looks to rebuild from the pandemic. Gove retains responsibility for the Union — with the Tories already drawing battle lines with Holyrood over a second independence referendum.

The reporting on the events of a reshuffle are familiar and formulaic, not least the bellowing of reporters on the steps of Downing Street. Today’s efforts didn’t disappoint:

“Have you accepted a demotion Mr Raab?”

“Isn’t that embarrassing?”

“Are you being punished for the Afghanistan debacle?”

He has. It is. And yes, he is.

Liz Truss, in turn, is rewarded presumably not for her aptitude at statecraft but for her loyalty to the Tory leader, as she makes the step up from International Trade to the Foreign Office. Truss is the most popular member of the Cabinet among Tory members and her elevation to one of the Great Offices of State speaks volumes of this reshuffle as an exercise in party management.

No stranger to a reshuffle himself, Aneurin Bevan once said: “There are only two ways of getting into the Cabinet. One way is to crawl up the staircase of preferment on your belly; the other way is to kick them in the teeth."

If these are indeed the requisite entry requirements then the Prime Minister has done little today to elevate the tackety boots brigade over the pliable belly crawlers to deliver on his levelling up agenda. By and large his Cabinet remains dominated by hardline Brexit-supporting adherents, not the iconoclasts that the days ahead demand of all governments in a post-pandemic world.

There will be plenty more column inches expended in vain over the next couple of days about what it all means. Then, by the weekend, we’ll be over it.