Since I was busy in front of Bake Off, we begin today with those ministerial appointments we missed last night. Gavin Williamson, former Chief Whip, later both Defence and Education Secretaries, perennial leadership-campaign manipulator, and noted tarantula owner, is back in Cabinet as a Minister without Portfolio in the Cabinet Office. Despite receiving some torrid headlines for the impact of Covid on schools, Williamson is long-experienced at organising backbenchers, and his backing would have been crucial for Sunak.
Robert Jenrick also returns to Cabinet (having spent almost two months as the Health junior minister). Alongside Sunak and Dowden, he was one of those three rising starts whose support for Johnson was so crucial in 2019, and was rewarded with Housing, Communities, and Local Government. Like Williamson, he was sacked from his role in the 2021 reshuffle, but as a long-time Sunak backer it is no surprise to see him returning to the top table.
Finally, another former Chief Whip has returned to Cabinet: Andrew Mitchell. Having served at International Development from 2010 to 2012, his brief tenure at the Whip’s office was defined by the alleged altercation with a police officer that is unmistakably remembered as ‘Plebgate’. A critic of attempts to reduce spending on international development, he backed Sunak throughout this summer and autumn. He is now a Minister for Development at the Foreign Office, since the Department for International Development was folded into the FCDO two years ago.
Victoria Prentis has been appointed as Attorney General. She was appointed the Minister of State by Work and Welfare by Truss last month, and backed Sunak in both of this year’s leadership elections. Jeremy Quin has been made Paymaster General and Minister for the Cabinet Office, and will be attending Cabinet too. Again, he was a Sunak backer in both of this year’s elections, and has only been serving as Minister of State for Policing since last month.
These positions were announced before we received a Secretary of State for Transport, but we do now have one: Mark Harper. Harper was Chief Whip for a year after the 2015 election, before running for leader in 2019, and later serving as chair of the Covid Recovery Group. Again, he was a Sunak backer in both of the two elections this year.
Finally, we also have the appointment of John Glen, a long-time Sunak loyalist, as Chief Secretary to the Treasury – the third within three weeks. He was previously Economic Secretary of the Treasury from 2018 to 2022. We also have Johnny Mercer back as the Minister for Veteran Affairs. It was a position he held under Johnson, before being relieved of it by Truss. His backing for Sunak at this election was another crucial loss of momentum for Johnson. On the subject of veterans, Tom Tugendhat remains Minister of State for Security. Our live blog will continue tomorrow.
Chris Heaton-Harris, a prominent Johnson backer, has been retained as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Alister Jack has also retained his position as Secretary of State for Scotland. In neither election did he publicly back a candidate. His accession to the role came remarkably quickly – a consequence of Johnson wanting a figure in the role in 2019 who wasn’t David Mundell. David TC Davies rounds out the Union briefs as Secretary of State for Wales, and he backed Truss in this summer’s election, but came out for Sunak this time around. Lord True has been reappointed Lord Privy Seal, and Leader of the House of Lords. He replaced Baroness Evans, who had previously held the role for six years. Only a few major appointments remain.
Gove is back! So much for his claims a few weeks ago that his career in frontline politics was over. He returns to the Department for Levelling Up, to revive the central mission of the Johnson government that Sunak namechecked on Downing Street earlier. He will be back in the Cabinet with Braverman – the Home Secretary who accused him of leading a “coup” against the leadership all the way back at, erm, party conference.
Meanwhile, Kemi Badenoch – Gove’s former junior that he backed for the leadership in the summer – has been retained as International Trade Secretary and received the Minister for Women and Equalities brief too. She is popular with the grass-roots, with her backing for Sunak seen as a crucial moment in killing Johnson’s momentum. The latter brief was (briefly) held by Nadhim Zahawi.
The retention of Michelle Donelan as Culture Secretary adds to the sense that this is a government where stability has been prized before all else. Unfortunately for Donelan, whatever her future successes in post, history might well remember her as the person who was Education Secretary for two days this summer.
I appreciate the speed on the new Prime Minister’s part. Not only because of the challenging political and international situation we face, but because, at this rate, we may yet be done in time for me to watch The Great British Bake Off.
Gillian Keegan, previously Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Africa since the 8th of last month, is now the 6th Secretary of State for Education since the start of this parliament. She backed Sunak in both last week’s contest and the summer’s. She is also so-far the first confirmed member of the Cabinet to have become an MP in 2017.
Mel Stride, a Sunak ally and previously Chair of the Treasury Select Committee, replaces Chloe Smith as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. He was previously Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons for a few weeks at the end of Theresa May’s premiership.
Therese Coffey, erstwhile Truss, Deputy Prime Minister and Health Secretary, becomes Secretary of State for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs. She swaps doctors and nurses for sheeps and cows, which one imagines might be quite a relief ahead of the winter the NHS is expected to have. She previously served in the department from 2019 to 2019.
Steve Barclay, close to Sunak, Johnson’s former Chief of Staff, and the holder of the role over the summer, has replaced her at Health and Social Care.
Meanwhile, Twitter remains apoplectic about Braverman’s re-appointment. So Sunak must be doing something right.
A slight slowing down in the pace of appointments. Penny Mordaunt remains as Lord President of the Council and the Leader of the House of Commons. That whole leadership bid was for nought. A consequence of her dropping out, rather than making a deal with Sunak, as seems to have been the case, is that he won’t have had to offer her a role. There is also said to be some ill-will between Team Sunak and herself by her efforts to force a contest yesterday.
The appointments are coming thick and fast now. One crucial one is the retention of Ben Wallace as Defence Secretary. He is a Johnson loyalist and Truss backer, who has been sceptical over Sunak’s willingness to stump up for defence in the past, and who has led in our Cabinet approval polls for months.
Oliver Dowden, a close ally of Sunak, has become Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. From there moves Nadhim Zahawi. The former vaccines minister and Education Secretary courted mockery earlier this week for coming out for Johnson at the exact moment he stepped out of the race, before rapidly switching to Sunak. He is now the Party Chairman and a Minister without Portfolio.
A lot of comment on Twitter was made that all the appointments were so far female. That has been blown out of the water by the re-appointment of Suella Braverman to the position of Home Secretary – the position she left less than a week ago. Grant Shapps, the Sunak backer who took her place, now replaces Jacob Rees-Mogg as the Business Secretary,
William Atkinson reporting
Dominic Raab has been re-appointed to his role under Boris Johnson as Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor, and Justice Secretary. As a prominent Cabinet (and ex-Cabinet) backer of Sunak, and a former leadership candidate himself, it is usurping he has received such a central role.
Simon Hart has also been confirmed as the new Chief Whip. A former Welsh Secretary, Hart has also been a backer of Sunak throughout this summer and autumn. He resigned from government following the Chris Pincher scandal.
James Cleverly – a prominent supporter of both Johnson and Truss – has been retained by Sunak in an obvious gesture towards party unity. If Shapps remains in place, that will mean all three of the Great Offices of State asides from the premiership have remained in the hands of those MPs who held them in the last days of the Truss government. The again, Suella Braverman – Home Secretary this time a week ago – has also been seen walking into Number 10. She backed Sunak this time around. Was the price of her support a return to her (not so old) job?
A significant appointment, if not perhaps a surprising one: Jeremy Hunt remains as Chancellor of the Exchequer. He can now continue work on the Medium-Term Fiscal Plan he has to present to Parliament next week.
It’s a sign of the inauspicious circumstances in which Sunak starts his premiership that he has had to confirm a chancellor not of his choosing; the relationship between Numbers 10 and 11 being the most important in government.
However, he and Hunt do seem to be on the same page on policy, and the continuity will send a reassuring signal to the markets.
"I didn't ask him for a job, nor did he offer one."— First Edition (@FirstEdition) October 25, 2022
Last night Tory MP Jake Berry told First Edition that Rishi Sunak "needs to be absolutely free" to put together the best cabinet for the United Kingdom.
Today Mr Berry resigned as Conservative Party chairman. pic.twitter.com/rJFaRhZLuS
We’re still in the lull between appointments. Here’s Jake Berry explaining his departure as Party Chairman.
Henry Hill reporting
It looks as if we might be at the end of the clear-out phase of the reshuffle. A total of ten Cabinet ministers have left the Government:
The Prime Minister has reportedly now returned to Downing Street where the happier phase of the operation can commence.
Simon Clarke’s tweet above implies that he has left the Government altogether. That’s another key Truss supporter out. And nine vacancies around the Cabinet table, which will help ease the pressure on Sunak for places.
Chloe Smith is out from Work and Pensions. She says that she looks forward “to supporting Rishi Sunak from the backbenches & continuing to work hard for my constituents in Norwich North”. Smith was another Truss supporter and is a fellow Norfolk MP.
And Jake Berry is out from CCHQ – anothe Truss voter. He has tweeted that he is returning to the backbenches. So reportedly is Robert Buckland, who originally backed Sunak in the summer’s leadership contest only to switch to Truss.
Harwood is also claiming that Ranil Jayawardena is out from Defra. On the one hand, these departures are offering Truss’s supporters nothing at all. On the other, that’s bound to be so, since she packed the Government with her backers.
Paul Goodman reporting
During the run-up to Liz Truss’s election as Conservative leader, I cited some figures relevant to her coming reshuffle. Here they are again.
“Boris Johnson sacked ten Ministers from his Cabinets. Nine Ministers resigned from them. He appointed seven new Ministers to the present Cabinet last month. One hundred and eighty seven Conservative MPs either are or have been Ministers.”
So what was a problem for her – which she turned out to handle very badly – is even more of one for Rishi Sunak. How does he squeeze the quart of his colleagues’ ambition into the pint pot of Government posts?
For with over half the Parliamentary Party having served or currently serving as Ministers, there is simply no way of satisfying those who think they should stay in their job or return to one – let alone pleasing those who have never held a post at all.
The new Prime Minister must balance experience and youth, loyalty and unity, right and left, and the different parts of the UK – while being sensitive to the appointment of ethnic minorities and women..and bearing in mind that most Tory MPs are neither.
I’ll be looking to see to what degree if at all he appoints a Cabinet with a significant number of “greybeards” – experienced Ministers and former ones who will bring to Government a sense of all pulling together to deal with a national crisis.
Already, we have the first departures: Jacob Rees-Mogg, star of our Moggcast, Brandon Lewis and Wendy Morton have left the Government.
Lewis has been in Cabinet for over five years, and so was its longest-serving member bar the departing Prime Minister. The logic of the change is that no-one, however talented, can stay on at the top table indefinitely.
Rees-Mogg had an extended lease of Ministerial life under Truss, having been one of Boris Johnson’s most determined supporters (as he remains). He is one of life’s natural independent voices from the backbenches and will have plenty to say.
Morton was Truss’s Chief Whip and her tenure can’t be said to have been a success. All three were Truss voters during the last leadership election.