Theresa May’s mini emergency reshuffle is complete. After David Davis and Boris Johnson resigned over the Prime Minister’s Brexit position, No 10 appointed Dominic Raab Brexit Secretary and moved Jeremy Hunt from Health to the Foreign Office. Now Matt Hancock – the Culture Secretary – has been appointed Health Secretary.
This is a big promotion for Hancock who up until recently had been banished to the junior ministerial ranks. As George Osborne’s former Chief of Staff, Hancock had been regarded with suspicion by May’s No 10. When May’s reshuffle earlier this year hit difficulties – with ministers refusing to move – Hancock was reluctantly granted a return to the frontbench. The fact that he has now received a second promotion suggests two things. Firstly – on the optimistic side – that May recognises he is an energetic minister who can command a tricky brief. Secondly, the Prime Minister’s main priority these days is just to have a functioning government – rather than try to banish Cameroons in order to make her mark.
So, how will Hancock approach the job? Thanks to his penchant for going out, fun loving side and his Matt Hancock App, he isn’t typically regarded as the most serious of politicians within Westminster. However, his work on Leveson this year impressed and he brought more energy to DCMS than his predecessor Karen Bradley. Given Hancock’s love for technology he could also be the right person to oversee the NHS as it tries to modernise and increase its efficiency. He has the unenviable job of overseeing the government’s social care proposals – presuming May’s government hangs on that long.
All in all, No 10 has managed to fill the vacancies in a seemingly competent manner. But there is one aspect that they may have overlooked (or decided was no longer a priority): other than Raab, all new appointees were Remain-ers in the EU referendum. That’s unlikely to reassure Brexiteer MPs at such a febrile time.