Boris Johnson has cleared out long-serving ministers John Whittingdale and Nick Gibb as he finishes off his bombshell reshuffle today – with Red Wall MPs and women set to advance.
The PM has fuelled speculation about an early election by the scale of the changes to his top team – with new Tory chair Oliver Dowden telling staff last night to get ready for a vote in the next two years.
Following his dramatic clear-out yesterday, Mr Johnson is focusing on shaking up the lower ranks of government today.
Veteran minister Mr Whittingdale – a former boss of the premier’s wife Carrie when she was a Tory adviser – said he was ‘sorry’ to be leaving the culture department.
Schools minister Mr Gibb has also been shown the door, with members of the 2019 intake of Tory MPs expected to be brought on to the first ministerial rungs.
Penny Mordaunt confirmed she has been moved from Paymaster General, tweeting to wish her successor ‘good luck’. She becomes a trade minister, while solicitor general Michael Ellis takes over her old role.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, one of the survivors of the blood-letting, said improving women’s representation in government was key to Mr Johnson’s thinking.
He told Sky News: ‘The Prime Minister wanted to bring forward a number of women MPs, he’s determined to both level up not only in the country but also in my party’s representation around the Cabinet table.’
Mr Wallace also ridiculed snobbish criticism of Ms Dorries.
‘I think Nadine Dorries is actually a best-selling author, if that isn’t part of culture,’ he said.
‘She’s sold thousands and thousands of books and now if that isn’t part of culture, media and sport I don’t know.
‘What’s great about Nadine Dorries is she produces culture that people buy and actually want to see rather than some of the more crackpot schemes we’ve seen being funded in the past by taxpayers’ money.’
Mr Wallace also denied ‘unfair’ jibes that Gavin Williamson had been sacked as education secretary because he was incompetent.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘He has removed people from Government not because they’re incompetent, not because they weren’t loyal enough et cetera, which are often the narratives you see, but often he has to refresh his team and move people out the way.’
Senior Conservatives pointed to the combative natures of freshly-promoted Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Ms Dorries.
The incoming Culture Secretary – a former I’m A Celebrity star and best-selling author – has previously slammed the BBC’s ‘left-wing bias’ and raged at ‘left-wing snowflakes’. ‘She is going to be so much fun,’ one Tory told MailOnline.
Ms Truss takes over from Dominic Raab, who has been savaged for his handling of the crisis in Afghanistan and 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’.
In other moves:
- 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’;
- A Tory MP said the promotion of Miss Dorries suggested the PM wanted to ‘dial up the culture war’;
- 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’.
Following his dramatic clear-out yesterday, Boris Johnson (pictured in Downing Street today) is focusing on shaking up the lower ranks of government
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (right), one of the survivors of the blood-letting, said improving women’s representation in the Cabinet had been key to Mr Johnson’s thinking. John Whittingdale (left) has left the Culture department in the reshuffle
Veteran minister Mr Whittingdale said he was ‘sorry’ to be leaving the culture department
Outspoken health minister Nadine Dorries (left) was promoted to the Cabinet as Culture Secretary, while Liz Truss (right) becomes Foreign Secretary
In a two-hour cull, he sacked four top ministers and handed a humiliating demotion to Dominic Raab (pictured on Wednesday)
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.
Ms Dorries made her first appearance for questions in the Commons this morning.
She received congratulations from across the House, although the SNP attacked her previous opposition to gay marriage.
Mr Whittingdale – a former boss of Carrie Johnson when she was a Tory adviser – tweeted confirming his departure from government.
‘I am sorry to be stepping down as Minister for Media and Data and saying goodbye to a great team of ministers and officials,’ he said.
‘It has been a privilege to play a part in shaping the future of UK public service broadcasting and in reforming our data laws using our new Brexit freedom.’
Mr Gibb said: ‘I am sad not to be continuing as Schools Minister.
‘It has been a privilege to play a part in helping improve the life chances of the next generation.’
Yesterday’s reshuffle saw a number of women land senior roles, with outspoken health minister Miss Dorries being 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.
The PM stamped his authority on the Cabinet with the brutal changes designed to secure him a second term in power.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick were all sent to the back benches. Tory party chairman Amanda Milling lost that job but was later handed a Foreign Office role
Ms 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. 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.
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.
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.
Penny Mordaunt confirmed she has been axed as Paymaster General, tweeting to wish her successor ‘good luck’
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
The main purpose of ministers going into Downing Street seemed to be posing for glossy photographs that could be disseminated on the No10 Twitter feed
Nadhim Zahawi has been promoted to Education Secretary after overseeing the successful jabs rollout as vaccines minister
Gavin Williamson tweeted this afternoon that he is out of the Department for Education, and suggested he is leaving government altogether
Robert Buckland confirmed he has been sacked as Justice Secretary, sparking speculation that his job could be offered to Mr Raab
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick tweeted to say he has been removed
Amanda Milling confirmed she was on the way out as co-chair of the Conservative Party today, just weeks before the conference in Manchester
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
Popularity of Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak surges among Tory grassroots but support for Dominic Raab plummets
Liz Truss topped the most recent popularity poll of the Tory grassroots.
The new Foreign Secretary was first in Conservative Home’s latest Cabinet league table, with a net satisfaction score of plus 85.2.
She was more than 10 points clear of Chancellor Rishi Sunak who was in second place with a rating of plus 74.5.
Lord Frost, the Cabinet Office minister, was third with a score of plus 65.5 with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace in fourth with a score of plus 64.2.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid was in fifth with a rating of plus 62.2.
The August survey of Conservative Party members saw the now former Education Secretary Gavin Williamson receive the worst rating at minus 53.5.
Mr Williamson has been widely-tipped for a reshuffle demotion after a series of gaffes.
Amanda Milling, the chairman of the Conservative Party, had also been tipped for the sack – she had the second worst net satisfaction rating with minus 16.6.
Dominic Raab, now Justice Secretary and deputy PM, was also under pressure after he saw his popularity plummet amid the Afghanistan crisis.
Mr Raab was third from top in the previous Cabinet league table on plus 73 but he has now sunk to just plus 6.1.
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
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.’
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
No 10: It was nothing to do with Carrie
Downing Street denied that the Prime Minister’s wife Carrie Johnson had played any role in yesterday’s Cabinet reshuffle.
It came after it was branded the ‘Carrie reshuffle’ by Boris Johnson’s former aide Dominic Cummings.
But when asked if she had been consulted, a Downing Street spokesman said: ‘No.’ She has previously been accused of interfering after figures she was believed to be close to were promoted, such as Sajid Javid being made Health Secretary and John Whittingdale as culture minister.
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.’
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.’
Dominic Raab stayed on his sunlounger as Kabul fell while Gaffin’ Williamson destroyed the hopes of thousands of students… so what took Boris so long to send them packing?
Mr Raab was removed as Foreign Secretary in the wake of his disastrous handling of the crisis in Afghanistan. The minister was shunted from one of the Great Offices of State to become Justice Secretary.
But in a face-saving move, he was given the title of Deputy Prime Minister following lengthy talks with Boris Johnson in his Commons office yesterday.
Mr Williamson was sacked as Education Secretary after his calamitous tenure saw chaos in schools during the pandemic, including on exams.
Mr Raab was replaced by Liz Truss, who becomes only the second female foreign secretary in history, while Mr Williamson’s job was taken by Nadhim Zahawi.
Robert Buckland, who had been at the Ministry of Justice, was sent to the backbenches.
Dominic Raab and Gavin Williamson were humiliated last night as they were ousted from their Cabinet jobs in the reshuffle. Mr Raab was removed as Foreign Secretary in the wake of his disastrous handling of the crisis in Afghanistan. Mr Williamson was sacked as Education Secretary after his calamitous tenure saw chaos in schools during the pandemic, including on exams.
Mr Raab’s demotion comes after he faced a huge backlash over his failure to make a crucial phone call to seek urgent help airlifting translators out of Afghanistan. He was in holiday in Crete (pictured) at the time
Mr Williamson came under repeated pressure to resign over the fiasco around grading of GCSE and A-level students amid cancelled exams. Pictured: Library image
Mr Raab’s demotion comes after he faced a huge backlash over his failure to make a crucial phone call to seek urgent help airlifting translators out of Afghanistan.
The Daily Mail revealed last month that senior officials had advised that he should make immediate contact with Afghan foreign minister Haneef Atmar as the Taliban advanced on Kabul.
But the minister, who was on holiday at a five-star beach resort in Crete, did not make the call and it was delegated to a junior minister – although it never actually ended up taking place.
Afghans who risked their lives by working as translators alongside British soldiers accused him of ‘betrayal’ and warned that his failure could cost lives.
Tory MPs denounced Mr Raab for being ‘asleep at the wheel’ and joined opposition parties in demanding he be removed.
Mr Raab finally flew back from his break after Kabul had already fallen. He has since admitted ‘with hindsight’ he should have come back sooner.
But he insisted it was ‘nonsense’ that he was ‘lounging on a beach or paddleboarding’, claiming the sea ‘wasn’t open’.
Mr Raab accepted his new job yesterday following a tense meeting with Mr Johnson in which he attempted to resist being demoted.
The Prime Minister eventually agreed to add Deputy Prime Minister to his title to cushion the blow.
Mr Raab accepted his new job yesterday following a tense meeting with Mr Johnson (pictured) in which he attempted to resist being demoted. The Prime Minister eventually agreed to add Deputy Prime Minister to his title to cushion the blow.
Matt Hancock seen Boris-biking it through London
The ex-health secretary was on a Lime bike in a suit – but no crash helmet – in Trafalgar Square.
He looked at the ground while he waited for the traffic lights to change as a moped rider stared at him.
The former health secretary straddled an electric Lime bike
It formalises a role he performed as First Secretary of State when he stood in for Mr Johnson while he was in hospital with coronavirus.
He is the first person to hold the title since Sir Nick Clegg, the former Liberal Democrat leader.
Mr Williamson earlier became the first confirmed casualty as Mr Johnson began his reshuffle after Prime Minister’s Questions.
‘It has been a privilege to serve as Education Secretary since 2019,’ he tweeted.
‘Despite the challenges of the global pandemic, I’m particularly proud of the transformational reforms I’ve led.’
Mr Williamson came under repeated pressure to resign over the fiasco around grading of GCSE and A-level students amid cancelled exams.
Last summer he was forced into a U-turn following protests over the downgrading of thousands of results.
Only last week, he faced further ridicule after he said he had met footballer Marcus Rashford online, when he had instead talked to rugby player Maro Itoje.
Before his tenure at the Department for Education, Mr Williamson became known for a tendency to put his foot in his mouth as defence secretary.
He was sacked from that job in May 2019 following an inquiry into the leak of information from a National Security Council meeting about Chinese telecoms firm Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s 5G mobile network.
Mr Williamson denied being the source of the leak.
Last night Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, the largest teaching union in the UK, said: ‘We can’t pretend we are sorry that Gavin Williamson has gone.
Robert Buckland (left), who had been at the Ministry of Justice, was sent to the backbenches
‘He failed to engage with our suggestions on how to make schools safer during Covid – leading to unnecessary disruption to children and young people’s education.
‘His CO2 monitors won’t arrive until very late this term, his laptops took months to reach the children who needed them and he had to be dragged kicking and screaming into providing for children going hungry during school holidays.
‘The exam debacle in 2020 and 2021 caused huge stress to parents, students and teachers. Many parents and students will never forgive Williamson for this.’
Labour last night said appointing Mr Raab as Justice Secretary ‘shows how little this Government cares about victims of crime’.
Justice spokesman David Lammy said: ‘Appointing a failed foreign secretary who was fired for being missing in action to be the sixth justice secretary in six years shows how little this Government cares about victims of crime.
‘Victims need a justice secretary who is capable of fixing the courts crisis the Government created, not one who has been open about his opposition to the fundamental rights and freedoms the public depends on.’
Enter the executioner: Minute by bloody minute, how Boris orchestrated his Cabinet cull on a day of grimaces and stunned smiles… but few tears for fallen colleagues
Dominic Raab grimaced but said nothing as a reporter shouted at him: ‘Are you going to have more time to spend on holiday?’
Technically, Mr Raab was entering No10 to learn if he was to be reappointed as Foreign Secretary in the reshuffle.
But he already knew his fate, having come straight from a tense meeting with Boris Johnson in which the Prime Minister rejected his plea to keep his job. The walk up the street was purely for show.
To complete the humiliation, he then had to pose for a formal picture for his new role as Justice Secretary.
He did not manage a smile. By contrast, his successor Liz Truss positively beamed as she strode up Downing Street to be appointed as the Tories’ first female Foreign Secretary.
And Nadine Dorries looked stunned in her own official portrait after being handed the job of Culture Secretary in one of the surprise moves of the reshuffle.
Earlier, Miss Dorries – a one-time rent-a-quote and former reality TV contestant – had stood and gossiped with reporters about the reshuffle, apparently unaware she was to be handed a Cabinet job.
Yesterday’s reshuffle had a long gestation. When Mr Johnson gathered senior aides in Downing Street on Sunday afternoon to finalise his shake-up it was the culmination of months of planning.
Yesterday’s reshuffle had a long gestation. When Boris Johnson gathered senior aides in Downing Street on Sunday afternoon to finalise his shake-up it was the culmination of months of planning
Dominic Raab and Gavin Williamson were humiliated last night as they were ousted from their Cabinet jobs in the reshuffle. Mr Raab was removed as Foreign Secretary in the wake of his disastrous handling of the crisis in Afghanistan. Mr Williamson was sacked as Education Secretary after his calamitous tenure saw chaos in schools during the pandemic, including on exams.
The Prime Minister had been frustrated that key parts of his agenda were not being seen to be delivered, but had felt constrained from acting by the demands of the Covid crisis. Aides had first prepared to hold the reshuffle in July.
But the unexpected departure of Matt Hancock as Health Secretary after being filmed kissing an aide made it less urgent and the PM’s enforced self-isolation at the end of the month made it logistically impossible.
Mr Johnson had toyed with the idea of delaying the shake-up until after next month’s Conservative Party conference, but finally decided at the weekend that it made no sense to give a platform to failing ministers who were destined to be sacked.
After a fortnight of speculation, the Westminster rumour mill went into overdrive yesterday morning as Government drivers were put on standby to whisk ministers to Downing Street.
It was finally confirmed at lunchtime when No 10 took the unusual step of denying claims by former top aide Dominic Cummings that the PM had consulted his wife Carrie on who to hire and fire.
The formal reshuffle did not begin until after Prime Minister’s Questions when the PM and senior aides hunkered down in his Commons office to conduct the sackings away from prying eyes.
As nervous MPs clutched their phones and awaited news of their political futures, journalists swarmed to catch a glimpse of the comings and goings.
Amanda Milling was spotted looking miserable after being sacked as Conservative Party co-chairman and a grim-faced Robert Buckland was also seen leaving after being fired as Justice Secretary.
Amanda Milling was spotted looking miserable after being sacked as Conservative Party co-chairman
A grim-faced Robert Buckland was also seen leaving after being fired as Justice Secretary
Meanwhile, Miss Truss and Oliver Dowden were having a relaxed lunch with colleagues in the Members’ Dining Room before they were handed new jobs by the PM.
But Gavin Williamson had already been told he would be departing as Education Secretary after a miserable run that saw his approval ratings among Tory activists fall to an incredible minus 53.
He gave a farewell speech to staff in his department before the reshuffle was even underway. Eyes are said to have remained dry.
When he was summoned to the Commons, the former chief whip made a brief appeal to the PM to return to his former role, but Mr Johnson stamped on the idea immediately.
Friends said Mr Williamson was philosophical about his brutal removal and believed he might yet have one more comeback in him.
Mr Johnson is said to have been ‘pained’ by his conversation with the blameless Mr Buckland.
One senior Tory MP said his only failing was that he was ‘a middle-aged white man’ in a reshuffle that emphasised diversity.
But this was nothing compared to the bust-up with Mr Raab, who battled for more than half an hour to keep his job. He reminded the PM he had stood in for him when his life was in the balance at the height of the pandemic last year.
Meanwhile, Miss Truss (pictured) and Oliver Dowden were having a relaxed lunch with colleagues in the Members’ Dining Room before they were handed new jobs by the PM
And he defended his record on Afghanistan, which has faced intense criticism following his decision to stay on holiday as Kabul fell to the Taliban.
The PM was said to be sympathetic but unmoved. After what one source described as a ‘negotiation’ between the two men, the PM offered to throw in the grand, but largely meaningless, title of Deputy Prime Minister to soften what was otherwise a harsh demotion.
Downing Street insiders said the PM had planned to move Mr Raab to justice for months, describing the former lawyer as a ’round peg in a round hole’ there.
His fate was sealed not so much by his conduct over Afghanistan as by his toxic falling-out with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, a close personal friend of the PM.
After the sackings, Mr Johnson was smuggled out of Parliament to Downing Street. Ministers were called in to the Cabinet room one-by-one to be handed their roles by him.
They were then taken to the State Dining Rooms to have their official pictures taken in front of a pair of Union flags.
Downing Street said the reshuffle was designed to create a ‘united’ team and Mr Johnson certainly rewarded loyalty.
Both Miss Truss and Miss Dorries have proved unswervingly loyal to the PM. Michael Gove had made little secret of his desire to move to the Foreign Office, but insiders said the PM had long favoured Miss Truss.
A source said: ‘Michael wanted it, but it was always going to be Liz.’ Mr Gove’s official portrait records that, like Mr Raab, he could not muster a smile.
Chopped! How Dominic Raab the karate kid was a casualty of war: HENRY DEEDES’ not-so-fond farewell to the Foreign Secretary
When Dominic Raab gets cross, that furrowed forehead of his tends to throb. His jaw tightens and his eyes flare like filament lightbulbs.
We saw plenty of that as he marched into Downing Street yesterday to be told he was being shunted from the Foreign Office to the dusty old Ministry of Justice.
Oooh he looked cross. A martial arts black belt, I wouldn’t be surprised if the super-fit 47-year-old gave his desk a fierce karate chop later on at his new department.
Ignominious as Mr Raab’s exit may be, it will elicit little sympathy following his handling of the Afghanistan crisis.
As the Taliban advanced on Kabul, he inexplicably chose to remain at a luxury hotel in Crete rather than return home to hit the telephones to Afghan politicians on behalf of stranded British nationals and Afghan interpreters now in fear for their lives.
Conservative MP Dominic Raab, when at Oxford, where he won a blue for boxing
Nor will his exit be much lamented at the Foreign Office. Judging by some of the gamey briefings against him hailing from there these past few weeks, there may have been a bottle or two of blanc de blancs popping along Whitehall last night.
It all comes as a bitter blow to a fiercely driven individual who until now has known largely only success.
The son of Czech immigrants, he started out at Linklaters, the top City law firm known for paying Premier League-style salaries.
A stint in the Foreign Office followed, where he helped prosecute war criminals.
He won the Parliamentary seat for Esher in 2010, having cut his political teeth working as chief of staff to David Davis.
He was, by all accounts, a demanding taskmaster but for all his obvious strengths, Raab has always lacked a certain human touch. This would in part explain why his leadership campaign after Theresa May’s blubbery exit from No 10 never even got lift-off.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab walks outside the FCDO in London
Despite decent backing within the party, his speeches went down like a stale pilchard. ‘Dull’ was the verdict I heard muttered over and over by grassroots members.
When the Prime Minister was rushed into ICU with Covid last year, his de facto deputy’s rabbit-in-the-headlights appearance on TV hardly inspired confidence among a jittery electorate.
However, colleagues insist Raab performed his stand-in duties admirably. His reward was to be given charge of the Department for International Development in an expanded Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
Members of the British and US military engaged in the evacuation of people out of Kabul, Afghanistan
As the Raab empire increased, so did his stock in Westminster. That all came unstuck in August when he opted for a few days more in the Med over a return to the FO. A tetchy performance in front of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee later sealed his fate.
Loath to fall out with anyone, Boris has embellished Raab with the title of Deputy Prime Minister. But it is a sop to a man whose ambition instils in him a belief he deserves so much more.
As the new Deputy PM departed Downing Street yesterday, a reporter cried out: ‘How does it feel to be the next Nick Clegg?’
Once again, the Raab forehead pulsed. It was a disparaging denouement to a demeaning day.
A slithering python who failed the grade: HENRY DEEDES bids a welcome goodbye to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson
Exit the schemer. Gavin Williamson was the gormless- looking minister whose boyish smirk and Frank Spencer voice has always belied a more shadowy nature.
Regarded as distinctly untrustworthy by both colleagues and opponents, he glides through the corridors of the Palace of Westminster the way a python slithers around the jungles of Borneo.
Following the exams fiasco – and a supine capitulation to unions over reopening schools after lockdown – the 45-year-old’s sacking as Education Secretary yesterday was, on the face of it, inevitable. Yet it’s been said that successive PMs have been too scared of ruffling Gav’s tousled curls.
Exit the schemer. Gavin Williamson was the gormless- looking minister whose boyish smirk and Frank Spencer voice has always belied a more shadowy nature
After all, here is a man who never tires of reminding colleagues that he ‘knows where the bodies were buried’. To quote Lyndon Johnson – who said it of J Edgar Hoover – Boris thought it better to have Williamson ‘p***ing out of the tent than p***ing in’. Until now.
For such a calculating figure, one might have thought that Gavin enjoyed one of those mysteriously vague careers with impressive credentials. In fact, prior to becoming MP for Staffordshire in 2010, he was manager of fireplace firm Elgin & Hall.
His subsequent rise up Parliament’s slippery pole has fascinated colleagues, who marvelled at his ability to switch allegiances speedier than slurry off a shovel.
He once vowed Johnson would never get the top job as long as Gav was around – yet wily Williamson ended up running his leadership campaign.
Regarded as distinctly untrustworthy by both colleagues and opponents, he glides through the corridors of the Palace of Westminster the way a python slithers around the jungles of Borneo
Under Theresa May he ran the whips’ office, where colleagues likened him to Francis Urquhart in Michael Dobbs’s political satire House Of Cards. Dobbs even gave him a copy of his book with the inscription: ‘This is a work of fiction, not instruction.’ Despite not knowing a cruiser from a carrier, he was promoted to Defence Secretary. He set moustaches twitching after the Salisbury poisonings by telling the Russians to ‘go away and shut up’.
Those loose lips are said to have got him sacked during the Huawei hoo-haa over Britain’s 5G network – although he denied being the source of a leak about the deal.
He didn’t lurk on the sidelines for long, as Boris soon rewarded him with the education brief.
Yet rather than any political legacy, it is Gavin’s taste in pets that seem most likely to live long in the memory. Always desperate to portray himself as a Cabinet enforcer, he kept a tarantula on his desk called Cronus – after the Greek god who devoured his own children.
Sadly, Gav’s eight-legged friend departed for that great cobweb in the sky some time ago. After yesterday, it appears his master’s career is dead too.
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