It was Vladimir Ilyich Lenin who, supposedly, came up with the term “useful idiots” to describe those too dim to realise that they are being used for some political purpose or other. There is some doubt as to whether Lenin in fact coined the term, or even used it, but it is useful shorthand nonetheless. It comes readily to mind when contemplating the ministerial reshuffle Boris Johnson is due to announce on Thursday.
For the rumours are strong that some of the most notable casualties will be the Eurosceptics courted by Johnson during his long quest for the premiership, then liberally rewarded with jobs in cabinet. Some of the most prominent members of the European Research Group were given senior positions – bought off – as a result of Johnson’s rise to power.
When Johnson cleared out the May cabinet last July, he made Priti Patel home secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg leader of the House of Commons, Theresa Villiers was sent to look after environment, and the business department was tossed to Andrea Leadsom, who herself once came improbably close to the leadership.