Two months after a resounding election victory, Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled a redesigned cabinet to drive the UK's national and global post-Brexit agenda. Post electoral reshuffles give the Prime Minister the opportunity to define the narrative and give us an insight into their priorities for the new term. While rumors of significant structural changes have roused, in reality (with one or two exceptions) this is not too dissimilar to what has been whispered in the SW1 corridors over the past fortnight. Ultimately, perhaps controversially, this reshuffle is all a prime minister wishes to see, a demonstration that power and authority lie with Downing Street.
The biggest – and most unexpected – change was that Sajid Javid resigned instead of becoming a lame duck registrar in a war for special advisors. This makes Javid one of the few members of an unenviable club: a chancellor who never delivered a budget and the shortest reigning chancellor in about 40 years.
Some might suspect that this was a sign of a cabinet reshuffle Not I will plan a la Theresa in 2018. However, there is an argument that this has been part of Senior Adviser Dominic Cummings' plan all along. They take Javid back to a corner and roll the next turn. In any case, you have a severely weakened chancellor who will do what you want, or you can appoint a new chancellor who will do what you want (for now).
While some of the loud voices have disappeared, it's worth noting that the cabinet itself is now just a little bit smaller. Before the reshuffle, there were some Ministers of State who also participated in the cabinet. This has now been reduced to the (more traditional) house leader, the whip, the attorney general, and the secretary general of the Treasury. Many will argue that this can only be a good thing for real cabinet government decision-making.
The other important lesson to be learned from all of this is that it is not just a matter of reshuffling people who are carrying red boxes, but also of special advisors. After giving up his right to choose his own SpAds and another minister's proposals, Javid fired one of his key advisors to keep his place at the table. We can expect further rumors to be heard early next week about who's staying among the politicians, who's mixing, and who's going.
Economy, industry and economy
The new Chancellor Rishi Sunak is seen by number 10 as an aspiring star, is considered a safe bet and has represented the prime minister several times in television debates during the elections. After entering the cabinet for the first time in July last year, he was promoted, but no one predicted that he would become chancellor. This is a big step for a man whose political development has continued an upward trend since his election in 2015. With his first budget in just one month (theoretically), he has a significant task ahead of him. One of Sunak's main priorities – besides the budget – will be to meet government commitments to balance the differences between the southeast and the north. This is expected to include major infrastructure commitments and a renewed focus on economic prosperity.
Sunak, along with new business secretary Alok Sharma and chief secretary of the Treasury, Steve Barclay, needs to act quickly to calm the nerves in the city and in key industry groups such as the CBI, as rumors are that the government is giving up its manifesto commitments and turning on spending is typing to spur growth.
Liz Truss, who will remain with International Trade, will provide security for UK companies wishing to trade outside the European Union. Free trade is key to the government's global vision for Britain, and Truss, Sharma and Barclay will play a key role in achieving this through free trade agreements and free ports. She came to International Trade by bringing Minister Greg Hands back – respected and popular across the government. Hands, who resigned as Secretary of Commerce to oppose the expansion at Heathrow, is a strong and vocal advocate of free trade, and has played a key role in the Alternative Arrangement Commission to find an alternative to backstop and try a Brexit deal ,
Traffic and infrastructure
While Transport Secretary Grant Shapps remains in office, he has a new team of ministers around him, with George Freeman and Nus Ghani, who have been fired from their jobs. Former Secretary of State and International Trade Secretary Andrew Stephenson joins Shapps in the Department of Transportation. Stephenson, who represents a constituency in northwest Lancashire and serves as a railroad minister, is expected to use his new website to improve rail traffic in the north. Chris Heaton-Harris stays with DfT.
energy and Environment
The prime minister said 2020 was the year of climate action, and the next budget – the first since Britain's legally binding net-zero commitment – is expected to include a number of energy efficiency measures. The challenge to achieve this lies with the new State Secretary for Economy, Energy and Industrial Strategy Alok Sharma. The UK will host this year's climate conference in Glasgow (COP26), with Sharma also playing the key role of the president.
Sharma's previous job as international development minister means that he has some international and diplomatic creds, which his predecessor lacked, which will be crucial to success in Glasgow. His vote on climate and environmental issues could be described as incomplete, and he has developed from a rejection of Heathrow's environmental expansion to economic support. Nevertheless, he has used his platform on the world stage in recent months to campaign for measures against the climate crisis and to call for measures to support developing countries. Minister of Energy Kwasi Kwarteng remains in place, but no longer participates in the cabinet.
George Eustice will take over the politically charged Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs at a crucial time, with catch quotas a key issue in free trade negotiations with the European Union. At the top of his tray are the environmental law and the agricultural law. Eustice is a farmer himself and will make a major contribution to sending a message to the sector in which they are listening to the government. Victoria Prentis joins the government as Junior DEFRA Minister. Although her portfolio responsibility is not (yet) known, Prentis grew up on her family farm and is enthusiastic about agriculture. She is also enthusiastic about the environment and waste reduction. As part of the Keep Britain Tidy APPG, she helped organize the Great British Spring Clean, gave up plastic for Lent, and is a member of the Conservative Environment Network's Parliamentary Caucus.
As the government has made legally binding funding commitments to the NHS an important part of its re-election platform, the Prime Minister has kept Health and Social Affairs Minister Matt Hancock in place. In its manifesto, the government committed to finding a social welfare solution, a challenge that has plagued governments of all colors and beliefs for many years. Helen Whately, who will lead the government's work in this area, is another emerging star from 2015, rising from the Minister of Art and Tourism to the Minister of State for Social Welfare. The big challenge will be to reach political consensus on a troubled and difficult issue and at least provide a timetable for reform for a sector that has been taking action for years.
Britain now has its tenth Minister of Housing in ten years. Esther McVey joins the long list of former housing ministers, with former whip and foreign minister Christopher Pincher joining MHCLG. His challenge was to get the job done quickly – in the housing and construction sectors, there was a revolving door of ministers, whose short term made it difficult for them to influence them. Politically, the government needs someone to find their way around and start dealing with the unpredictability of housing policies and the diverse challenges across the country. In the past, he has argued for the need for more small and medium-sized companies in the supply chain to increase the efficiency of construction, and has asked the government to encourage large developers to outsource some of their land banks to small developers. It is not just questions about the development of the green belt that he has to deal with. Not only does Pincher have to meet the needs of first-time buyers (and those who want to be first-time buyers), he also has to work with his colleagues across government to work on empty nests that shrink and retire.
Northern power plant
Johnson's ally and former north power station minister Jake Berry has left the government after being offered and rejected a role in the State Department. After being in the role, Berry (in his own words) took the Northern Powerhouse from concept to cabinet table. His passion for the role was clear and his successor, Minister Simon Clarke (equally passionate), has a great job ahead of him. Without a place at the cabinet table and an expanded report on decentralization in the broader sense, this will be something to see, and Clarke's challenge will be to send a message that is not just a soundbite and a box that the government is absolutely leveling with is committed up north and bring economic growth and prosperity to the region.