Boris Johnson is putting the finishing touches to his reshuffle after making significant changes to his top team.
On Wednesday, the PM fired both Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, before replacing Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab with Liz Truss.
He has now moved on to confirming which junior ministers are in or out of jobs.
But one ousted minister, John Whittingdale, told BBC’s Newscast that the new team could lack experience.
In some of the latest manoeuvres, Conor Burns, who resigned as a trade minister in 2020 after a report found he used “veiled threats” to aid his father in a financial dispute, returned to the front bench as a Northern Ireland minister.
Others moved to more high-profile ministerial roles on Thursday included Alex Chalk, who was appointed Solicitor General, and Skills Minister Gillian Keegan, who now joins the Department for Health and Social Care.
But Justin Tomlinson lost his job as minister for disabled people in the same department, while Matt Warman was sacked as minister of digital infrastructure.
Former Brexit and Northern Ireland Minister, Robin Walker, has gone to the Department for Education, where he will work with the new Secretary of State, Nadhim Zahawi.
And Helen Whately, who was the minister for social care, has been moved to the Treasury, but Jesse Norman joined the list of sackings.
Earlier on Thursday, Penny Mordaunt left her post as paymaster general at the Cabinet Office to become a minister at the trade department.
Mr Whittingdale – who lost his job as data minister at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport – said his post had been one he “loved” and was “sad to give up”.
He also revealed some of the PM’s appointments “came out of the blue”.
The former minister told Newscast: “I understand that every prime minister has to make room to allow people to be brought forward. I quite recognise the prime minister is keen to have a front-facing cabinet that reflects modern Britain.
“Equally it’s no bad thing to have a bit of experience around that table and people who have got a good grasp of the detail of the jobs they are being asked to do.”
There were big winners from the reshuffle too, included Nadine Dorries, who was promoted from being a junior health minister into her first cabinet-level job as culture secretary.
The Mid Bedfordshire MP is probably best known outside Westminster for her 2012 appearance on ITV’s I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here.
Ms Truss, who is the Tory party’s first female foreign secretary – and only the second woman to hold the role, following Labour’s Margaret Beckett – said she was delighted by the appointment and would use the role to “promote a positive, outward vision of global Britain”.
Other changes made on Wednesday included:
- Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick being fired and replaced by Michael Gove
- Treasury minister Steve Barclay replacing Mr Gove as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
- Oliver Dowden trading his role of culture secretary to be minister without portfolio at the Cabinet Office and Conservative Party co-chair
- Anne-Marie Trevelyan being promoted to replace Ms Truss as international trade secretary
- And Mr Raab being moved from the Foreign Office to become justice secretary, though he will also have the formal title of deputy prime minister
Former Justice Secretary Mr Buckland’s sacking was greeted with some surprise, with a number of Labour MPs tweeting praise for him and senior Conservative Sir Bob Neill – who chairs the Commons Justice Committee – saying he “deserved better”.
In a letter to the prime minister after his dismissal, Mr Buckland called for more investment in the justice system, adding that “years of underfunding” had made it harder for it to recover from the effects of the pandemic.
New Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary Mr Gove will also get the added responsibility of the government’s “levelling up” agenda – which it claimed would spread wealth and opportunity around the country – while continuing to handle demands for another Scottish independence referendum.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Mr Dowden, following his appointment as the Tory party’s new co-chairman, had told staff at Conservative Campaign Headquarters to start preparing for a general election which could be in 20 months’ time.
What’s Boris Johnson’s reshuffle really all about?
After the early traumas of Brexit, then the emergency and horror of the pandemic, the moves represent, they hope, a refreshed team that can get things done.
Whether it’s building houses without upsetting the Tory shires, sorting out school exams, pushing through tougher prison sentences, with new faces it’s a government that Downing Street hopes will be more able to push reform forward, and make its case.
Nearly two years after the election, it’s perhaps the start of Mr Johnson’s third act as prime minister.
Mr Johnson continued making changes late into the night on Wednesday as he got the reshuffle of more junior ministers under way, ahead of the further changes on Thursday.
Long-serving Nick Gibb was sacked from his role at the Department for Education, while Caroline Dinenage lost her job as a culture minister, and Luke Hall was fired as a local government minister.
Amanda Milling, who was removed as Conservative Party co-chairwoman, has become a Foreign Office minister.
Julia Lopez has been moved from the Cabinet Office to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, while Greg Hands left the Department of International Trade for a new brief as business minister.