Throughout her campaign, Theresa May had said ‘’Brexit means Brexit’’. She clearly meant it.
After a whirlwind leadership election, May has kept up the pace of change with a far-reaching and radical reshuffle, punctuated by Brexit jobs for Brexiteers, a cull of Cameron and Osborne loyalists, and an overhauling of Whitehall organisation.
May’s team had briefed last night that gender balance would be a key feature of the Cabinet. Amber Rudd’s promotion from Energy to Home Secretary means she’s the biggest winner so far, while Liz Truss and Justine Greening will be pleased with promotions from Environment to Justice and Development to Education respectively. While there are now more women in the Cabinet than before, the number is far from 50/50.
Greg Clark has been appointed Secretary of State for the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. This is an amalgamation of the old Department for Business and Department for Energy, though trade, skills and universities briefs have been lost elsewhere.
May’s speeches promising continuity to Cameron’s agenda do not appear to have wrung true. Notable in their absence from Cabinet are George Osborne, Nicky Morgan, Michael Gove and other Cameron/Osborne supporters. Also notable was the surprise resignation of Stephen Crabb, who is believed to have been offered a role, but declined “in the interests of his family”. However, Michael Fallon remains Defence Secretary and Sajid Javid has clung on to a role at Communities and Local Government, while Cameron’s former PPS Gavin Williamson is now Chief Whip. So far, it’s been a case of ‘out with the old, in with the older’; most senior appointees have served in Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet or in ministerial posts before.
Jaws dropped around the world last night as Boris Johnson was appointed Foreign Secretary. The appointment was, as they say in civil service circles, ‘brave’. Personal charm certainly has value, but his past approach has been out of kilter with the smooth diplomacy of the Foreign Office and will be watched closely. May’s decision to bring him back into the fold may be a stroke of genius; he will be too busy to stir unrest in the backbenches and can apply his bombastic style of diplomacy to post-Brexit Britain, or, equally, he could be gaffe-prone and rude.
Two other Brexiteers were welcomed back to frontline politics with brand new departments of their own, using Foreign Office staff and peeling off functions from the Foreign Office, Department for Business and UKTI. Former Defence Secretary Liam Fox will head the Department for International Trade, charged with striking deals with markets across the world.
David Davis, meanwhile, will lead negotiations for exiting the EU. Many moons ago Davis was Europe Minister under John Major, and was affectionately known by the French as “Monsieur Non”. Davis has spent the last 8 years defying the Party whip and suing the Home Office over bulk data retention, though these hatchets have clearly been buried as he now oversees Article 50 negotiations. This Department seems to have an obvious expiration date, and the way it de-conflicts responsibilities with other Departments will have important consequences.
Abundantly clear is that if Theresa May has made up her mind about some
thing, she is not afraid of taking bold and decisive action to back herself. Change will resound beyond Government; a corresponding Opposition reshuffle will be required, a herculean task for the embattled Labour leader, and the Select Committee structures within Parliament will have to adjust with new Chair and member elections.
Prime Minister: Theresa May
Chancellor: Philip Hammond
Home Secretary: Amber Rudd
Foreign Secretary: Boris Johnson
Defence Secretary: Michael Fallon
Brexit Secretary: David Davis
International Trade Secretary: Liam Fox
Education Secretary: Justine Greening
Justice Secretary: Liz Truss
Health Secretary: Jeremy Hunt
Transport Secretary: Chris Grayling
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary: Greg Clark
Communities Secretary: Sajid Javid
Environment Secretary: Andrea Leadsom
Work and Pensions Secretary: Damian Green
Party Chairman: Patrick McLoughlin
Culture Secretary: Karen Bradley
Chief Whip: Gavin Williamson
International Development Secretary: Priti Patel
Northern Ireland Secretary: James Brokenshire
Welsh Secretary: Alun Cairns
Scottish Secretary: David Mundell
Chief Secretary to the Treasury: David Gauk