By Campaign Agent Matthew Waterfield
For the best part of 2017, Theresa May wanted to conduct a reshuffle. At first, she wanted to sack Philip Hammond – a plan she was too weak to follow through on after her disastrous election campaign. Later on, she planned a reshuffle for October, in which she was supposedly going to sack Boris Johnson, but again, nothing happened. Finally, after conducting two mini-reshuffles in November, a more comprehensive one was necessitated by the sacking of Damian Green and after a weekend of anticipation, it began on 8 January.
The major feature of Day 1 was the overhaul of the Conservative Party, rather than the government itself. Sir Patrick McLoughlin resigned as Chairman of the Conservative Party and was replaced by immigration minister Brandon Lewis. However, a mistake at CCHQ led to Chris Grayling briefly and incorrectly being announced as the new party chairman on Twitter. This change has been inevitable since the June election, after which was McLoughlin was deemed responsible for many of the flaws in the Conservative campaign. He was also thought of as loyal enough to return to the backbenches with causing a fuss.
James Cleverly, a member of the 2015 intake, then replaced Amanda Sater as Deputy Party Chairman. One of the most active MPs on Twitter, Cleverly is widely seen as a talented communicator and his appointment is part of the Conservative's drive to increase their social media presence.
As well as Lewis and Cleverly, the Conservatives appointed a raft of nine new party vice chairs, including Kemi Badenoch, Ben Bradley, and Rehman Chishti. With three of the new chairs being people of colour, three being women, and four being under 40, the appointments are part of a push to make the Conservative Party more diverse, in order to win over groups that lean towards Labour.
Aside from the changes to the governance of the Conservative Party, there were also several changes to the Cabinet. First, James Brokenshire resigned as Northern Ireland Secretary for health reasons and was replaced by Karen Bradley, the Culture Secretary (both individuals had previously served under May as junior ministers at the Home Office). Bradley was replaced by Matt Hancock, previously a devoted Osbornite, and one of the few ministers who chose demotion over resigning when May took over in 2016.
Later that day it was announced that no one would be appointed to succeed Damian Green as First Secretary of State, however, his former role as Minister for the Cabinet Office would go to David Lidington, the Justice Secretary, who also inherited McLoughlin’s old position of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Lidington was replaced by David Gauke, who in turn was replaced as Work & Pensions Secretary by Esther McVey, the Deputy Chief Whip.
The ‘highlight’ of the reshuffle was Education Secretary, Justine Greening, resigning after rejecting May’s offer to run the DWP; she was replaced by employment minister Damian Hinds. The other set piece event – the departure of Jeremy Hunt from the Department of Health – ended up not happening, after Hunt passionately argued to May that he should be allowed to remain as Health Secretary, rather than put in charge of BEIS. His role was in fact expanded, to include 'Social Care' as well as 'Health'. That finished off Day 1, with the rumoured sackings of Andrea Leadsom, Greg Clark and Chris Grayling all being proved untrue.
Day 2 brought wide ranging changes among the junior ministerial ranks. A range of ‘pale, stale males’ – Robert Goodwill, Mark Garnier, John Hayes, to name a few - were sacked in favour of women and people of colour. Highly rated MPs such as Nadhim Zahawi and Suella Fernandes became ministers while others, like Nusrat Ghani and Jo Churchill became whips.
There were also movements among MPs who were already ministers – Sam Gyimah replaced Jo Johnson as universities minister, while Dom Raab became the new housing minister and Alok Sharma was appointed as the new employment minister. All three of these individuals are considered ‘rising stars’, with Raab in particular seen as a future cabinet minister.
Sources and Further Reading:
- Dan Bloom, Revealed, how Tory Chancellor Philip Hammond was sure Theresa May would sack him, The Mirror (26 September 2017)
- Steven Swinford, Boris Johnson will 'just say no' if Theresa May tries to sack him amid calls for 'miserable' Philip Hammond to face axe, The Telegraph (9 October 2017)
- Heather Stewart, Damian Green sacked as first secretary of state after porn allegations, The Guardian (21 December 2017)
- Steven Swinford, Reshuffle chaos as Conservatives delete tweet mistakenly announcing Chris Grayling as Chairman, The Guardian (8 January 2018)
- Paul Goodman, The Cabinet reappointment that could put Corbyn in power, Conservative Home (12 June 2017)
- Jack Worlidge, A muddled reshuffle, Newington Communications (2018)
- Sam Coates, Tories give £10,000 salary boost to new vice-chairmen, The Times (10 January 2018)
- Charles Moore, Young Matt Hancock, the privately-educated minister fighting a childish class war on public schools, The Telegraph (29 May 2016)
- Nicola Slawson and Andrew Sparrow, Cabinet reshuffle: Justine Greening quits the government No 10 confirms – as it happened, The Guardian (9 January 2018)
- Andrew Sparrow and Peter Walker, May to move or sack quarter of cabinet in wide-ranging reshuffle, The Guardian (9 January 2018)
- Tim Sculthorpe, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt tipped to replace disgraced Damian Green as the PM's deputy while Boris Johnson, Philip Hammond and David Davis all set to STAY in cabinet reshuffle, Daily Mail (7 January 2018)
- Rowena Mason and Peter Walker, Theresa May promotes rising stars as reshuffle continues, The Guardian (9 January 2018)
Image: Number 10 @Flickr