Theresa May has this evening found enough people to fill the various ministerial holes left in her government by the recent slew of resignations. Some of these holes have been gaping for rather a long time: there has been no Minister for Disabled People since 13 March, for instance. But their lack of replacements until now has excited very little attention, largely because it’s not clear what else the government aspires to do at the moment other than exist. The appointments announced this evening are as follows:
- Justin Tomlinson MP to be a Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions.
- James Cleverly MP to be a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union.
- Seema Kennedy MP to be a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care.
- Andrew Stephenson MP to be a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
- Will Quince MP to be a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions.
- Kevin Foster MP to be a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (unpaid) at the Wales Office and an Assistant Government Whip (paid). He will also be a Parliamentary Secretary (unpaid) at the Cabinet Office while Chloe Smith MP is on maternity leave.
One of these appointees only recently left the ministerial ladder: Will Quince quit as a PPS in December to oppose May’s Brexit deal. He recently announced he now supported it. Others move over from other roles, such as James Cleverly, who was the deputy chairman of the Conservative party but is now in the Brexit department, presumably for as long as all the other Brexit ministers, who have appeared to regard the role as more of a summer temping position than anything particularly permanent. Cleverly was appointed to CCHQ because of his outspoken and jolly tribal style, which could help May defend her deal, but might also put off the Labourites she is now trying to appeal to, given his love of a social media set-to with political opponents.
Seema Kennedy has been May’s loyal PPS since 2017, and is known for cheering the Prime Minister up during particularly bleak moments in her premiership. She will presumably regard moving to the Health and Social Care department as a bit of a break as well as a promotion, given the number of particularly bleak moments in May’s premiership over the past few days, let alone the full duration of her tenure.
But what these appointments mean for the particular roles is anyone’s guess, as no-one expects this government to last for long enough to have an agenda. It hasn’t rally been clear what May’s domestic agenda has really been over the past few years, let alone now, in the final few weeks of her leadership.