By Gina Clarke
It was billed as a reshuffle that would make the government ‘look more like the country it serves’ and ended with UK Prime Minister Theresa May declaring that a “new generation” of top ministers would now sit in her cabinet.
But she was off to a slightly lack-lustre start as political heavy-weights like David Davis and Boris Johnson kept their positions as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs respectively.
The promised shake-up of additional women and more representatives from black and ethnic minorities seemed to be off track as Justine Greening, MP for Putney, resigned from her education post on Monday afternoon despite being offered the post of Work and Pensions Secretary which came with a higher departmental budget. Negotiations with the MP were dramatic and lasted over 2-hours but Greening emerged from Number 10 without a cabinet post, leaving the door open for Damian Hinds to replace her as Secretary of State for Education. In her resignation statement on Monday evening, she said,
“Social mobility matters to me and our country more than a ministerial career.”
‘The Putney’ Problem
This now leaves the PM with another issue on her hands, dubbed ‘The Putney problem’, Greening’s constituency pledged overwhelming support in the 2016 referendum with 75% voting remain. With Greening returned to the backbenches May could have to contend with a larger group of remain rebels than seen previously.
But it wasn’t just Greening that the Prime Minister was negotiating with, Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary, who refused to move across to Business and instead negotiated a bigger share of the pot with the additional responsibility of social care added to his job role. It certainly gave Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn ammunition at the first Prime Ministers Questions on Wednesday who said she was “too weak” to push through with the sacking.
Health wasn’t the only department to be renamed, housing was also added to the title of the Communities department and is now Housing, Communities and Local Government headed up by Sajid Javid.
A lack of new faces
With the resignation of Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire due to ill health as he prepares to undergo surgery on his lung, in an internal reshuffle Karen Bradley, the previous culture secretary, was offered the job.
This meant that by the end of Monday there were still no new female or BAME faces within the government. As well as Greening and Brokenshire there was a third familiar face to leave the cabinet, that of 60-year old Patrick McLoughlin, the Conservative party chairman, whose cabinet seat comes via an official government role as chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Widely criticised for running a disastrous election campaign it was no surprise that he was replaced.
The latest changes include Jo Johnson being moved from his universities role to transport, and Suella Fernandes becoming a minister in the Department for Exiting the EU.
Mr Johnson had been in the firing line over the appointment of columnist Toby Young to the board of the government’s universities regulator.
The brother of former London mayor Boris Johnson, he will also be the minister for London in his new role.
A wave of women join the cabinet
All in all, Tuesday fared much better, although these were more junior positions in her ministerial team, it ended with an additional 6 men and 8 women added to the cabinet with some high-profile promotions as Caroline Dinenage, Harriett Baldwin and Margot James join from the lower ranks to become Ministers of State.Another six women – Kelly Tolhurst, Mims Davies, Amanda Milling, Jo Churchill, Wendy Morton and Nusrat Ghani have all been chosen as Whips, both to combat the recent harassment scandal and to enforce discipline within the party. This will become extremely important as Justine Greening returns to the back benches alongside other notable ‘Remainers’. The Prime Minister will want to ensure she does not become defeated in the commons by infighting. With only a slim majority she will be wanting this cabinet to show commitment and authority.
By Tuesday evening Mrs May concluded to the press that her new cabinet would allow “a new generation of gifted ministers to step up and make life better for people across the whole UK”.
There was one complete gaff by the Conservative social media team though when Chris Grayling was incorrectly announced as the new Conservative Party Chairman on the Tories’ official Twitter account.
Now you see it, now you don’t – here’s the Grayling tweet announcing him as party chairman that has since been deleted… pic.twitter.com/UG5Fcmc6yg
— Katy Balls (@katyballs) January 8, 2018
Complete with a mocked-up picture offering congratulations for the role, it was subsequently deleted, but not before it had been screenshotted for posterity by journalists and distributed on social media. The job later went to Brandon Lewis.
Mr Grayling has remained as Transport Secretary and has since told Radio 4’s Today programme that,
“Nothing’s changed. Lots of media speculation and a mistaken tweet and that happens quite often these days.”
So overall, who came in, who went out and who stayed put?
- Tory Chairman: Brandon Lewis
- Culture Secretary: Matt Hancock
- Education Secretary: Damian Hinds
- Work and Pensions Secretary: Esther McVey
- Immigration minister: Caroline Nokes (attends Cabinet)
- Business minister: Claire Perry (attends Cabinet)
- Home Secretary: Amber Rudd
- Chancellor: Philip Hammond
- Brexit Secretary: David Davis
- Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary: Sajid Javid
- Foreign Secretary: Boris Johnson
- Health Secretary: Jeremy Hunt
- Business Secretary Greg Clark
- Defence Secretary: Gavin Williamson
- Trade Secretary: Liam Fox
- Transport Secretary: Chris Grayling
- Aid Secretary: Penny Mordaunt
- Environment Secretary: Michael Gove
- Lords Leader: Natalie Evans
- Scotland Secretary: David Mundell
- Wales Secretary: Alun Cairns
- Commons leader Andrea Leadsom
- Attorney General: Jeremy Wright QC
- Cabinet Office Minister: David Lidington
- Justice Secretary: David Gauke
- Northern Ireland Secretary: Karen Bradley
- Patrick McLoughlin
- James Brokenshire
- Justine Greening