Its been just over 18 months since a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Theresa May swept into Number 10 and first took to the steps of Downing Street as the new Prime Minister of Great Britain. Along with a new PM came sweeping changes to the cabinet, with Cameron’s old Etonian chum George Osborne ousted in a flash and Education Secretary Nicky Morgan unceremoniously given her marching orders too – it was evident May had the power to pick and choose as she pleased.
545 long days and a failed election later, for our unfortunate PM, power is no longer something she posses as this most recent cabinet reshuffle, or distinct lack of one, proved.
The four main ministerial roles; Chancellor, Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Brexit Secretary all remained the same. Unlike what many commentators had predicted, May didn’t feel she had the support from backbenchers to sack alleged-foe Phillip Hammond from Number 11. Hammond is both a vocal ‘remainer’ in the Cabinet and popular with fellow MP’s in the Commons and a potential revolt in Parliament by annoyed Tory MPs as a result of his sacking was something May calculated she could do without. Amber Rudd’s job as Home Secretary and David Davis’ in the Department for Exiting the EU were also considered safe, not even May would jeopardise Brexit negotiations by changing minister halfway through and Rudd is said to be a close friend of the PM in Westminster, with May ‘schooling’ Rudd on the role that May herself held for 6 years prior. Everyone’s favourite Etonian old-boy Boris just about clings to his job in the Foreign Office, for now. Guess it’s best for May if he’s halfway across the world causing trouble rather than doing the same in Westminster…
Following the Tories lacklustre election campaign and a party conference ran like a Monty Python sketch, it was hardly surprising that Party Chair Patrick McCoughlin was relieved of his duties early on in the days events. The big question however was who was going to replace him.
At 11:45am, we were given the answer – former Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. Well, for 27 seconds he was, anyway. Following a Tory staffer in CCHQ mistakenly taking BBC reporter Laura Kussenburg’s tip off regarding Grayling as the truth, they quickly tweeted out official confirmation via the @Conservatives twitter account. Within seconds, the tweet was deleted, causing much amusement on Twitter and much embarrassment for May. This mistake was finally rectified just minutes later when it was announced, and correctly this time, that the new Party Chair would infact be highflyer Brandon Lewis, MP for Great Yarmouth. Having only joined the Government under Cameron as a junior minister in the Department for Communities and Local Gov in 2012, Lewis is quickly climbing his way up the greasy pole of Tory-party careerists. With control of party operations now within his remit, maybe one to watch out for when May eventually steps aside?
Following his 27 seconds of fame, it was revealed Grayling remains in his post as Transport Secretary. Meanwhile, Caroline Nokes takes up the Immigration Minister post previously held by Lewis.
Continuing the pattern, there were no changes to Environment Secretary; where ex-Education Sec Michael Gove shall continue his barnstorming progress made over the last few months, Jeremy Hunt remains in his post as Health Secretary which he has held since 2012 (albeit a slight change as his official title now includes Social Care) and veteran-MP Liam Fox keeps his job as Minister for International Trade, a role only created following the 2016 EU Referendum.
Andrea Leadsom retains her role as Party Leader in the Commons, likewise Baroness Evans of Bowes Park as Party Leader in the Lords. Similarly, David Mundell retains his role as Scottish Secretary, as does Alun Cairns in his role as Welsh Secretary. There was some change to report in Northern Ireland however, with the Secretary of State James Brokenshire making way for Staffordshire Moorlands MP Karen Bradly, who moved over from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Her old job was given to Cameron-ite Matt Hancock, who gains a slight promotion from his previous role as Minister of State for Digital and Culture. His fancy new title is Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
Ex Chief-Whip Gavin Williamson retains the role of Defence Secretary which he took up in November following Michael Fallon’s exit from Government as, in his words, his “previous conduct” towards women had “fallen below” what is acceptable. In addition, Sajid Javid stays as Communities Secretary with the addition of housing now under his remit and Greg Clarke remains as Business and Energy Secretary. David Liddington moved to the Cabinet Office with David Gauke taking his role as Justice Secretary, also officially known as Lord Chancellor.
Gauke’s previous job at the Department for Work and Pensions was allegedly offered to Education Secretary Justine Greening who turned down the role at the 11th hour, instead choosing to resign from Government rather than be forced into a role she didn’t want. Greening, the first Education Secretary in British history to have attended a state school, was hastily replaced by Oxford grad Damian Hinds, MP for East Hampshire and former minister at the DWP.
This left one role left to be filled come 11PM last night, when Esther McVey, the new MP for George Osborne’s old seat Tatton, was summoned to Number 10 where the PM offered her the role of Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
All in all, May’s tenuous position as leader resulted in few changes across the Cabinet. What the PM had hoped would be an uneventful day however was duly prevented by a classic Twitter faux pas. As the saying goes, it doesn’t rain, it pours…