Boris Johnson stamped his authority on the Cabinet yesterday with a brutal reshuffle designed to secure him a second term in power.
In a two-hour cull, he sacked four top ministers and handed a humiliating demotion to Dominic Raab.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick and Tory party chairman Amanda Milling were all sent to the back benches.
Miss Milling’s successor Oliver Dowden last night told activists to start preparing for an election possibly only two years off.
The removal of Mr Williamson follows a chorus of criticism over last year’s exams fiasco, which saw him lose the confidence of parents, teachers and Conservative MPs.
Foreign Secretary Mr Raab, who has been savaged for his handling of the crisis in Afghanistan, was demoted to Justice Secretary.
But, following a tense half-hour stand-off with Mr Johnson in his Commons office, he was also handed the consolation title of Deputy Prime Minister, allowing government sources to claim it was a ‘promotion’.
He was replaced by Liz Truss in a reshuffle that saw a number of women land senior roles.
Outspoken health minister Nadine Dorries was promoted to the Cabinet as Culture Secretary. She will have responsibility for dealings with the BBC, having previously described the corporation as a ‘biased left-wing organisation’ that does not deserve the licence fee.
In another eye-catching appointment, Nadhim Zahawi was made Education Secretary after overseeing the Covid vaccine programme. The appointment caps a remarkable rise for a man who did not speak English when he arrived in the UK from Iraq aged nine.
In a surprise sideways move, Michael Gove was handed the housing brief, along with responsibility for the pledge to ‘level up’ opportunity across the country.
In other moves:
- Miss Truss became the Tories’ first female Foreign Secretary;
- Brexiteer Anne-Marie Trevelyan was promoted to replace Miss Truss as International Trade Secretary;
- Mr Dowden told Tory faithful: ‘You can’t fatten a pig on market day. It’s time to go to our offices and prepare for the next election’;
- Home Secretary Priti Patel defied speculation she would be sacked. Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid also remain in their posts;
- A Tory MP said the promotion of Miss Dorries suggested the PM wanted to ‘dial up the culture war’;
- A reshuffle of the Government’s junior ranks is expected today;
- Mr Johnson faced a backlash over the cull of middle-aged white men, with one senior Tory describing the removal of Mr Buckland as ‘unjust and outrageous’;
- Downing Street denied Mr Johnson’s wife Carrie played a role, after former top aide Dominic Cummings dubbed it the ‘Carrie reshuffle’.
Outspoken health minister Nadine Dorries was promoted to the Cabinet as Culture Secretary. She will have responsibility for dealings with the BBC, having previously described the corporation as a ‘biased left-wing organisation’ that does not deserve the licence fee
Foreign Secretary Mr Raab, who has been savaged for his handling of the crisis in Afghanistan, was demoted to Justice Secretary. But, following a tense half-hour stand-off with Mr Johnson in his Commons office, he was also handed the consolation title of Deputy Prime Minister, allowing government sources to claim it was a ‘promotion’. He was replaced by Liz Truss in a reshuffle that saw a number of women land senior roles
In a two-hour cull, he sacked four top ministers and handed a humiliating demotion to Dominic Raab (pictured on Wednesday)
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson (pictured), Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick and Tory party chairman Amanda Milling were all sent to the back benches
Government sources said the reshuffle was designed to kickstart the delivery of the Prime Minister’s domestic agenda, which has been overshadowed by Covid.
Mr Johnson is thought to believe delivering on his 2019 pledges will be critical to his hopes of winning the next election. He said last night: ‘The Cabinet I have appointed today will work tirelessly to unite and level up the whole country.’
Speculation about a possible reshuffle reached fever pitch over the past fortnight after Mr Johnson postponed a planned shake-up in July.
But the scale of the clear-out took ministers by surprise, and effectively amounts to a reboot of the Government.
The Prime Minister had been under pressure to sack Mr Williamson since last summer, when he presided over a shambolic U-turn over exam grading.
Mr Johnson, who prizes loyalty, resisted the calls back then but is said to have concluded months ago that he would have to go.
A Tory MP said the promotion of Miss Dorries (pictured on I’m a Celebrity) suggested the PM wanted to ‘dial up the culture war
Friends last night acknowledged that Mr Raab was ‘disappointed and bruised’ by the demotion.
He had been facing calls to quit since the Daily Mail revealed last month that he refused to interrupt his holiday to speak to his Afghan counterpart and ask for help in evacuating UK allies.
And, fatally, he fell out over the crisis with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, a long-time friend of the PM. A Government source insisted the move was not prompted by Mr Raab’s handling of the Afghan crisis and was not a demotion.
The source said the PM had first decided to move Mr Raab to justice before the summer, describing the former international lawyer as a ’round peg in a round hole’ for the job.
‘The PM believes he is a massive asset and he will now be doing a critical role,’ the source said. ‘He’s been made Deputy Prime Minister and will stand in for the PM at PMQs next week – it is total rubbish to describe it as a demotion.’
Steve Barclay succeeds Mr Gove as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and minister for the Cabinet Office. Former minister Simon Clarke returns at the Treasury.
Foreign Secretary who campaigned for end of monarchy… was at Greenham aged 7… and called Britons idlers
She may be the Queen’s 26th foreign secretary, but Liz Truss is the first person in that august position who has ever called publicly for the abolition of the monarchy.
And while she is a darling of the party faithful after striking 63 post-Brexit deals in her role as international trade secretary, news of her republican past will come as a deep shock to her many grassroots supporters.
When she was a student at Oxford she was a Liberal Democrat and spoke in the party’s 1994 conference debate on abolishing the monarchy. She was cheered to the roof when she declared: ‘We Liberal Democrats believe in opportunity for all. We do not believe people are born to rule.’
It’s fair to say that, from her early days, Truss has been on a dramatic political journey. Her father was a Left-wing maths professor, while her mother, a nurse, was an anti-nuclear campaigner who took her to the women-only Greenham Common camp in Berkshire where American cruise missiles were sited in the 1980s.
It was in 2009 that Liz Truss was selected amid controversy to fight the safe seat of South West Norfolk. Local party members, dubbed the ‘Turnip Taliban’, were aghast to discover that years earlier she had an extramarital affair with a Tory MP, Mark Field (pictured). They tried to deselect her, claiming she had heaped embarrassment on the constituency party – but they failed
There they sang anti-Margaret Thatcher songs, she remembers. ‘I probably didn’t know what I was singing. I was seven at the time.’
Her socialist upbringing – first in Paisley in Scotland where she was born and later in Leeds where she went to a comprehensive – did not stop her drift to the Right.
By the time she was studying politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford, she was Lib Dem. Soon afterwards she joined the Conservative Party, then became an economist and deputy director of the Reform think-tank.
It was in 2009 that she was selected amid controversy to fight the safe seat of South West Norfolk. Local party members, dubbed the ‘Turnip Taliban’, were aghast to discover that years earlier she had an extramarital affair with a Tory MP, Mark Field. They tried to deselect her, claiming she had heaped embarrassment on the constituency party – but they failed.
By now a hardcore Thatcherite, she co-wrote Britannia Unchained, a book advocating free-market economics. One line caused particular controversy: ‘The British are among the worst idlers in the world. We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor.’ Yet it did not impede her progression.
In 2014, aged 38, she became the youngest female Cabinet minister when she was made environment secretary. More recently, as international trade secretary, she batted relentlessly for Britain and consistently topped the ConservativeHome league table of favoured ministers.
Her popularity reflected the number of trade deals she struck – though she was mocked when her officials tweeted that soy sauce from Japan would become cheaper after one with Tokyo – and significantly she was one of only three Cabinet ministers to oppose the Government’s decision to raise National Insurance to pay for social care.
A lamentable public speaker, there have been toe-curling performances at the Tory conference, and try as she might, her speeches get no better. While she is no intellectual heavyweight, she is bright and tough and laughed out loud when a minister once said: ‘Her longevity in Government is a mystery to virtually the whole parliamentary party.’
Yet her promotion is unsurprising. Not least because, shrewdly, she was the first Cabinet minister to back Boris Johnson for the Tory leadership in 2019.
Culture boss who’ll wade into Woke wars… and was suspended by Tories for going on I’m A Celebrity
Return of senior Spartan:
Hardline Brexiteer Anne-Marie Trevelyan has returned to the Cabinet as International Trade Secretary
Hardline Brexiteer Anne-Marie Trevelyan has returned to the Cabinet as International Trade Secretary. She had been tipped to make a comeback after losing her job as International Development Secretary when the department was merged with the Foreign Office. And last night Downing Street announced that she would take on responsibility for securing new free trade agreements – seen as a pivotal position in post-Brexit Britain.
The brief had been held by Liz Truss, who was promoted to Foreign Secretary yesterday after winning praise for her handling of the trade negotiations. Mrs Trevelyan will have a huge role in securing major deals with the US, Mexico and India, as well as securing access to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (CPTPP). Her first task will be to get the Australian and New Zealand trade deals across the line. Next month her department will host powerful executives at the Global Investment Summit which seeks to secure foreign investment into the UK.
The role will also see Mrs Trevelyan try to increase the amount and value of foreign direct investment (FDI) into the UK, and upgrade the UK’s export performance. Unlike her predecessor, she is a committed Brexiteer and was a senior member of the hardline European Research Group of Eurosceptic Tory MPs, who were nicknamed ‘The Spartans’ for their dedication to a pure exit from the European Union. She was a board member of the Vote Leave campaign, and quit as a parliamentary private secretary to education ministers in 2018 over Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement.
Mrs Trevelyan has long been a close ally of Boris Johnson, and supported him in his 2019 leadership campaign. She was elected MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed in 2015, and has previously served as Armed Forces Minister and Defence Procurement Minister before she was made International Development Secretary in February 2020.
One of yesterday’s biggest surprises was the promotion to Culture Secretary of the former nurse Nadine Dorries. A controversial figure, she will be an extremely robust voice in the Cabinet against the woke brigade.
Back in 2017, she made clear her stance on the so-called culture wars in a memorable Twitter tirade.
The ‘Left-wing snowflakes’, she said, ‘are killing comedy, tearing down historic statues, removing books from universities, dumbing down panto, removing Christ from Christmas, and suppressing free speech’. She added: ‘Sadly, it must be true, history does repeat itself. It will be music next.’
As for the BBC – which will be a key part of her brief – she said last year it was favouring ‘strident, very Left-wing, often hypocritical and frequently patronising views that turn people away’.
The promotion of one of Boris’s most loyal cheerleaders, from mid-ranking health minister, comes nine years after she was suspended by the Tory Party for abandoning Parliament for a fortnight to appear on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here. She was unrepentant about her decision to go into the Australian jungle. ‘MPs should be taking part in order to reach large audiences,’ she argued.
The successful author of a string of novels, her brief appearance on reality television gives her real-life experience of the entertainment industry, which is also a crucial element of her portfolio. Dorries, 64, is also an avid user of social media – and regularly finds herself at the centre of so-called Twitter storms.
In 2013 she faced a backlash after comparing black MP Chuka Umunna to the boxer Chris Eubank. She then wrote online: ‘Apparently I’m racist because I think Chuck Umunna [sic] looks like Chris Eubank. What would I be if I said he looked like someone who was white??’
She was also accused of Islamophobia in 2018 after suggesting Labour’s Sadiq Khan, a Muslim, should be speaking out against Pakistani grooming gangs in Telford and Rotherham.
She does not limit her criticism to the Opposition, however. A fervent Brexiteer, Dorries once described the then prime minister David Cameron and his chancellor George Osborne as ‘two arrogant posh boys who don’t know the price of milk’.
Dorries herself was brought up on a Liverpool council estate. ‘I’m a normal mother who comes from a poor background and who didn’t go to a posh school,’ she has said. ‘We had nothing – we didn’t have carpets – and yet I look back on it and think: ‘Wow! How lucky was I?’ Because the richness came from the people, not from possessions.’
One of yesterday’s biggest surprises was the promotion to Culture Secretary of the former nurse Nadine Dorries (pictured leaving No 10 on Wednesday). A controversial figure, she will be an extremely robust voice in the Cabinet against the woke brigade
Matters in her ministerial in-tray include whether to privatise Channel 4. In 2010 she appeared on the channel’s Tower Block for the Commons, which featured MPs spending a week in under-resourced housing estates.
Her father was a Catholic, her mother a Protestant, and in the past she has suggested that teenage girls should be given sexual abstinence lessons in school. She is also in favour of cutting abortion time limits.
Her promotion has delighted many Tory MPs who argue it is a reward for a straight-talking politician who has backed Boris since he first ran for the Tory leadership in 2016. ‘She is a strong performer on the media and will be a welcome burst of colour,’ said one senior minister. ‘She will definitely shake things up. You can be absolutely certain of that.’