Those immersed in politics, and even those with a vague interest in it probably were unable to escape the comments that have been made by, the now former, Home Secretary Suella Braverman. With Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s authority looking more and more threatened by his increasingly vocal (and right-wing) Home Secretary, on Monday morning he decided to start off his reshuffle by sacking her.
This shuffle has not just been sackings, and surprise appointments, but from the starting gun it has been partially characterised by those in ministerial office choosing this moment to leave. This might be rats fleeing the sinking ship, but there have also been some comparatively competent junior ministers who are not standing again, choosing now to leave ministerial post. Reminiscent of the mini-shuffle this summer, where Ben Wallace’s decision to step down prompted a small rearrangement of the deckchairs on Sunak’s Titanic, now those who have resigned have done it at a less challenging time. Though they probably would have had a harder time holding on to their seats if they were standing again. Sunak was moving people anyway. Nick Gibb, Jesse Norman, Neil O’Brien and Will Quince all quit as competent and respected junior ministers, probably so that after the next election they can more easily start careers away from the dark halls of Whitehall.
The first signs of surprise afoot came soon after the expected removal of Suella ‘dreaming of flight to Rwanda’ Braveman. Both James Cleverly and former Prime Minister David Cameron were “spotted” going into 10 Downing Street by the front door. Just to note, there is a back door for more private meetings, Cameron was a helpful distraction from the Suella sacking. Political commentators needed to pinch themselves on the latter’s appearance; prior to his surprise posting he had left politics after the memorable loss of the Brexit referendum. Hopefully Cameron wasn’t just going to No. 10 to pick up a left behind umbrella. So, a man who started the week just a former PM, is now a Lord and our Foreign Secretary. He was replacing James Cleverly (don’t worry if you hadn’t heard of him) who is now Home Secretary, so he’ll probably be more well known from now on. This move seems odd, given Foreign Secretary is typically a role given to those the PM sees as a threat, and wants as far away as possible. If you need a reminder, both Boris Johnson and Liz Truss served in that post when their political stars were on the rise. But Sunak has been less conventional in his appointments and reshuffles, even more so in this one.
A dark spell from the past has now wafted from government in the form of Truss’s bestie Thérèse Coffey. She “resigned” as Environment Secretary having been moved from the Department of Health when Sunak took office. Her successor, Steve Barclay took the same route, moving from Health to Environment. Victoria Atkins took up the role as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, having been moved from the Treasury. She will have to tread carefully in her new role as her husband has a senior role in the sugar industry.
Housing also followed its familiar pattern, with the 15th housing minister sacked today. Lee Rowley took up that post, moved from an unknown junior post, who knows how long that will last? In other news that will escape the headlines, Laura Trott has been appointed as chief secretary to the Treasury, with John Glen moving to Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General. In terms of Conservative party management, party chairman Greg Hands was removed from his role following big by-election losses. Richard Holden has taken his place, a staunch supporter of Sunak since the first leadership contest last year.
There are still some vacancies in the government ranks but mostly in junior ministerial ranks. Nothing that will grab the headlines as much as the sacking of Suella Braverman and the appointment to both the Lords and the Cabinet of David Cameron. It makes me wonder, why did Sunak not go the whole hog and put Theresa May, William Hague and John Major back into Cabinet? So this is Sunak’s probable war cabinet, barring any major scandals, for the election that will likely be next year. A top team made up of men, and a cabinet that does not stir up passion in observers. Who knows what change they will make to British life? And it also seems to draw a line under Sunak’s party conference, “time for a change line”, as the man who took them into Government a long 13 years ago is back at the top of it.