Boris Johnson hands Brexiteers and allies top Cabinet jobs after brutal cull of Theresa May's top team

Posted On: 
24th July 2019

Boris Johnson has appointed a string of Brexiteers and loyalists to his top Cabinet posts after conducting a brutal clear-out of Theresa May's team.

Credit: 
PA

The new Prime Minister has named Sajid Javid as his Chancellor and Dominic Raab as his Foreign Secretary, while there were Cabinet comebacks for new Home Secretary Priti Patel, Gavin Williamson as Education Secretary and the new Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom.

Meanwhile longstanding Tory rival Michael Gove becomes Minister for the Cabinet Office, Stephen Barclay stays on as Brexit Secretary, Amber Rudd keeps Work and Pensions, and Matt Hancock will continue as Health Secretary.

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Close ally Ben Wallace becomes Defence Secretary, with a Cabinet elevation for Robert Jenrick to Housing Secretary and Robert Buckland stepping up at the Ministry of Justice to become Lord Chancellor.

Liz Truss, who acted as a policy tsar to Mr Johnson during the campaign, becomes the new International Trade Secretary, and Brexiteer Theresa Villiers returns to the Cabinet as Environment Secretary.

Senior Brexiteer and ERG chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg has also been moved from the backbenches having been appointed leader of the Commons.

In one of the few apparent olive branches to the Remain-backing wing of his party, Mr Johnson named Nicky Morgan - who served as Education Secretary under David Cameron - as Culture Secretary.

The appointments capped a day of high drama that saw a swathe of Mrs May's Cabinet axed and others quit before Mr Johnson took over, amid deep divisions in the Conservative Party over a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Javid - who previously served as Home Secretary and made his own bid to be leader of the Tories - steps into the Treasury job vacated by Philip Hammond, who quit earlier on Wednesday before he could be sacked by the new PM.

The new Chancellor campaigned to Remain in the EU in 2016, but declared during the Conservative leadership race that he was "not afraid of walking out" of the bloc without a deal.

Mr Javid said he was "deeply honoured to be appointed Chancellor" and tweeted: "Looking forward to working with @hmtreasury to prepare for leaving the EU, unifying our country and priming our economy for the incredible opportunities that lie ahead." ​

'GREAT HONOUR'

Ms Patel's Cabinet return meanwhile marks a dramatic comeback after she was sacked by Mrs May in 2017 for breaching the ministerial code.

She told Sky News it was a "great honour" to take on the job, adding: "I will do everything in my power to keep our country safe, our people secure, and also to fight the scourge of crime that we see on our streets. I look forward to the challenges that now lie ahead."

Ms Leadsom, who quit as Commons leader under Mrs May in opposition to her Brexit plans, returns to head up the Business Department, while Mr Williamson takes on the education job after being sacked from the Cabinet earlier this year after being accused of leaking sensitive information about the UK's 5G network.

All three returning ministers were highly critical of Mrs May's Brexit strategy.

Mr Raab - who also ran for the Tory top job and floated the controversial idea of proroguing Parliament to force a no-deal Brexit during the campaign - meanwhile takes over the Foreign Office from Mr Johnson's Tory rival Jeremy Hunt, who quit the Government after turning down another job.

He also becomes First Secretary of State, meaning he will deputise for the new PM at Prime Minister's Questions and serve as de facto deputy prime minister.

Mr Wallace, a longstanding ally of Mr Johnson and a former platoon commander in the Scots Guards, steps up to become Defence Secretary after a stint as security minister.

While he voted to Remain in the EU in 2016, he is close to the new Prime Minister and ran his short-lived 2016 leadership campaign.

Ms Truss, who lands the DIT job after a spell as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, likewise campaigned to stay in the bloc in 2016.

But she has since said leaving without a deal would be better than cancelling Brexit, and accused those who want to rule out a no-deal exit of "saying they're prepared to never leave the European Union".

CLEAR-OUT

Matt Hancock, who switched to backing Mr Johnson after his own leadership campaign ran aground, meanwhile stays on as Health Secretary, making him one of the few in Theresa May's Cabinet to stay in post as ministers loyal to the former PM were either sacked or quit the Government in the dramatic Cabinet clearout.

Jeremy Hunt - who was soundly beaten by Mr Johnson in the Tory leadership race - left the Government after turning down the chance to become Defence Secretary.

Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt and Trade Secretary Liam Fox - who were both vocal supporters of Mr Hunt during the Conservative leadership campaign - also lost their jobs. 

Meanwhile Scottish Secretary David Mundell, Business Secretary Greg Clark, Education Secretary Damian Hinds, Communities Secretary James Brokenshire, Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley and Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright were all sacked by the new PM.

Immigration minister Caroline Nokes, who attended Cabinet also lost her job in the biggest government clearout since Harold Macmillan's infamous 'Night of the Long Knives' in 1962.

The sackings came after Philip Hammond, Rory Stewart, David Gauke and David Lidington all handed in their resignations to Theresa May before she left Downing Street for the last time.

All four are opponents of a no-deal Brexit, something Mr Johnson has said he is prepared to pursue on 31 October if he cannot secure a new agreement with the European Union.

In addition, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling told Mr Johnson that he wanted to return to the backbenches.

'FOR THE BANKERS'

Opposition parties were quick to pounce on the new Prime Minister's appointments.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell flagged Mr Javid's previous career in the City to brand Mr Johnson the "bankers' best friend".

The Labour frontbencher said: "Javid has consistently called for more tax cuts for the banks and corporations. So from the outset it's clear that this is a government by the bankers and for the bankers."

Meanwhile the Lib Dems seized on Ms Patel's voting record, saying the new Home Secretary had opposed "allowing same sex couples to marry" and was "one of the most enthusiastic advocates of Brexit".

The party's home affairs spokesperson Ed Davey added: "By appointing Priti Patel as Home Secretary, Boris Johnson is continuing to pander to right-wing Brexiteers instead of putting the interests of the United Kingdom first. More proof that he is not fit to be Prime Minister."

The SNP's Pete Wishart branded the new Cabinet the "worst since Thatcher".

He fumed: "This is a Tory cabinet from hell, which Donald Trump or Nigel Farage would be proud of – with members that want to scrap the Barnett formula, privatise the NHS, roll-back workers’ rights, undo the welfare state, cut taxes for the rich, and even bring back the death penalty."