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Boris Johnson forms his government

24 July 2019

11:00 PM

24 July 2019

11:00 PM

  • Sajid Javid is Chancellor, Priti Patel is Home Secretary, Dominic Raab is both Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State
  • Michael Gove becomes Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, his fifth Cabinet job. Matt Hancock remains Health Secretary and Gavin Williamson is Education Secretary. Amber Rudd remains Work and Pension Secretary and Geoffrey Cox stays as Attorney General.
  • Jacob Rees-Mogg becomes Leader of the House of Commons
  • Grant Shapps is appointed Transport Secretary and Alok Sharma is International Development Secretary.
  • Ben Wallace is Defence Secretary, Steven Barclay remains Brexit Secretary, Liz Truss is promoted to International Trade Secretary, Andrea Leadsom is Business Secretary, Nicky Morgan is the new Culture Secretary. Robert Jenrick has been appointed Housing Secretary, Robert Buckland is Justice Secretary, Alun Cairns keeps his position as Welsh Secretary.
  • Jeremy Hunt has left the government after reportedly turning down the offer of Defence Secretary.
  • Twelve or more Cabinet ministers have been sacked or resigned. Penny Mordaunt, Liam Fox, Greg Clark, Damian Hinds, James Brokenshire, David Mundell, Chris Grayling and Jeremy Hunt are no longer in government. Earlier, Philip Hammond, David Lidington, David Gauke and Rory Stewart pre-emptively resigned from the Cabinet.
  • Immigration minister Caroline Nokes and Commons Leader Mel Stride have been fired. Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley and Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright have also reportedly been removed.
  • Three of the four great offices of state (Chancellor, Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary) are held by the children of immigrants, two are held by children of refugees.
  • The new Cabinet will meet for the first time at 8.30 tomorrow morning (if Boris can get up on time).



That’s all for now folks. Coffee House will be back tomorrow with even more analysis, and the latest on Boris Johnson’s new government.


Kwasi Kwarteng has been appointed Minister of State at the Business department and will attend Cabinet, as will Jake Berry, who is appointed Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth.


Oliver Dowden, David Cameron’s deputy chief of staff, is now attending Cabinet. Dowden backed Boris early in this contest, as he did in 2016. Having been Cameron’s deputy chief of staff and a Cabinet Office Minister he knows the Whitehall system as well as anyone.


Brandon Lewis  has been appointed Minister of State in the Housing department, and will now attend Cabinet:


Jo Johnson will attend Cabinet as Universities Minister. Jo had previously backed a 2nd referendum but is, presumably, now on board with his brother’s October 31st pledge.


Jacob Rees-Mogg becomes Leader of the House of Commons. This is a crucial job given the clashes there are likely to be between a Boris government and the Commons. Rees-Mogg knows the Commons’ rules and procedures as well as any member, so he’s well suited to the role. But there’s a fascinating question as to whether he becomes the Minister for the Today programme in the way that many previous Leaders of the House have been.


James Cleverly is the new Conservative Party Chairman. Cleverly previously served as deputy chairman then a minister in DexEU. He entered the leadership contest in the view that the party might want a fresh face but later folded in behind Boris Johnson who he knows from his City Hall days.

What will Clevelry bring to the role? He is one of the party’s best media performers and is a conference hit with younger activists. As a chairman, he comes in a difficult time. The party is low on funds and the new chairman will need to attract donors, motivate a tired party and perhaps most importantly get the machinery ready for a general election.


Esther McVey has been appointed Minister of State for Housing, but will also attend Cabinet.


Rishi Sunak has been appointed Chief Secretary to the Treasury in Boris Johnson’s government. Formerly DCLG minister, this is a big promotion for Sunak. When I appeared with him on Politics Live this lunchtime, he said he would be happy to receive any job – though I did tell him it was Chief Secretary to the Treausry that he was being lined up for.

Sunak is one of three rising star Tory MPs whose endorsement of Boris Johnson was see as pivotal to the campaign – in the membership stage – as it encouraged more MPs to get on board. Sunak, Robert Jenrick and Oliver Dowden all endorsed Johnson early on. Two have now been promoted and Dowden is expected to also receive a plum job.



Geoffrey Cox is reinstated as Attorney General:


It looks like there may still be some brotherly love in the Johnson household. Jo Johnson, former universities minister and brother of Boris, has entered Number 10. Jo voted to Remain in 2018, but resigned from government in 2018 over Theresa May’s Brexit deal, which he said was a ‘terrible mistake’.


Baroness Evans remains Leader of the House of Lords, a position she has held since 2016.


Jacob Rees-Mogg has entered 10 Downing Street, which suggests that he will have a position in Boris’s Cabinet:


Alistair Jack is the new Scotland Secretary. He has a pretty low profile but backed Brexit – unlike the man he replaces, David Mundell, who would have failed Boris’s test of being prepared to go through with a no-deal Brexit. Boris’s argument is that no deal would make the union stronger because the SNP would then be asking Scots to leave the customs union and single market of the UK. Mundell openly rejected that. 


Julian Smith, Theresa May’s chief whip, becomes the new Northern Ireland Secretary. Having managed the government’s confidence and supply deal, Smith knows the DUP well. He is also familiar with all the Northern Ireland Brexit issues having tried to broker various compromises on the backstop with the DUP.

In a recent Spectator interview, Boris Johnson said that one of his four priorities for government was to restore power-sharing at Stormont.



Geoffrey Cox has entered Number 10, and says he ‘expects’ to stay as Attorney General:


Alun Cairns keeps his position as Welsh Secretary:


Grant Shapps gets Transport, the job he had himself down for when he drew up his list of government appointments.


Alok Sharma is appointed head of International Development:


Robert Buckland has the dubious honour of taking over the most dysfunctional department in Whitehall: Justice. It has had a plethora of Secretaries of State, none of whom have had enough time to deal with the crisis in prisons, the chaos wrought by the coalition’s legal aid cuts, and the problems caused by the botched privatisation of probation, which is now being reversed.

Boris Johnson didn’t mention justice in his Downing Street speech, partly because it just isn’t something voters really think about. Buckland’s first task is to work out if his boss wants anything to do with this department, or if he will be left to the job.


Robert Buckland is the new Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor. Buckland voted Remain in 2016 and is a prominent figure on the left of the party, but he backed Boris Johnson in this contest—playing a crucial role in broadening out his support base. Buckland is a lawyer by trade and is currently the prisons minister, so this is a fairly natural fit for him.


Amber Rudd stays as Work and Pensions Secretary but gets Women and Equalities too, which gives her a license to range across government. Ultimately, Rudd’s views on Brexit were too different from Boris’s for her to get a great office of state.


Robert Jenrick gets a big promotion to become the new Housing Secretary. Jenrick was one of three high-flying Tory Ministers who endorsed Boris Johnson very early in the leadership contest. Their backing was seen as one of the decisive moments in the contest.


Gavin Williamson has returned to Cabinet – just two months after he was sacked by Theresa May for allegedly leaking to the press details of a National Security Council meeting on Huawei. His return is speedy by the usual standards, and is largely because Williamson played a pivotal role during the membership stage of the leadership contest: bringing MP votes to the Johnson campaign.

It follows that his appointment could also be seen as a disappointment. There had been talk that Williamson could return in a more senior ranking position – acting as Boris Johnson’s deputy. In the end, Team Johnson have played it safe and avoided extra controversy by giving him a Cabinet role that does not involve security briefings.


Robert Jenrick has been appointed Housing Secretary:




Nicky Morgan is the new Culture Secretary. This is a move from Boris Johnson to try and broaden out his Cabinet. Morgan was a Remainer in 2016, is a leading figure on the left of the party, was an enthusiastic backer of Michael Gove in this contest and known as a Boris-sceptic.

The decision to bring her back into the Cabinet (Theresa May sacked her as Education Secretary) is a sign that Boris Johnson is trying to reach out beyond his existing support base.


Gavin Williamson has been appointed Education Secretary, just ten weeks after being sacked as Defence Secretary.


Theresa Villiers is appointed Environment Secretary. In theory, this job will come with the new climate change mandate: getting to net zero by 2050. This was one of Theresa May’s last ideas, and it remains to be seen if it will survive the Boris era.


Matt Hancock, who dismayed many of his colleagues in the One Nation caucus when he backed Boris Johnson for leader, will not be rewarded for his troubles. Rather than being promoted, he remains as Health Secretary. It will be a blow to him, having hoped for either the Treasury or Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. The Sunday Times’ Tim Shipman described Hancock’s treatment as ‘utterly brutal’


Tracey Crouch, former Sports Minister, had been touted as a possible Culture Secretary. But she has ruled herself out of any government position.

She’s said she wished to spend more time with her young family, and writes that she’s ‘looking forward to spending my first red box free summer’ with her son, using the hashtag #TimeYouNeverGetBack


One of Boris Johnson’s most loyal supporters has been rewarded with a top job in his government. Ben Wallace is the new Defence Secretary. The role had initially been offered to Jeremy Hunt who turned it down on the grounds that it was a demotion. Wallace is one of a large number of Tory MPs who take a different view – and see Defence as their dream department.

Wallace moves into the role however with a number of Tory MPs seething over Johnson’s decision to sack Penny Mordaunt – the UK’s first female Defence Secretary – earlier today. Despite this, as a former Home Office minister who has had an eight year army career, Wallace has much relevant experience for the role.


Liz Truss has been appointed International Trade Secretary.

Her allies had hoped she should either be Business Secretary, or even Chancellor. But this is a decent consolation prize and will play to her strengths as a buccaneering free trader. Liam Fox claimed in private to have a long line of trade deals almost ready to be signed, including with Canada. It will be Truss’s job to finalise these agreements.


Ben Wallace has been promoted to Defence Secretary after serving as Minister of State for Security for three years. Wallace is a former Scots Guards officer who served in Northern Ireland.

This is one of the few appointments that can be seen as Boris rewarding his handful of longstanding standing allies in parliament. But, the appointment was only made after Jeremy Hunt reportedly turned the position down.


‘Sajid Javid has the knowledge and nerve for a clear no-deal plan, and was always arguing for one in the Cabinet. This will be a bit of a culture shock to HM Treasury, which has been the HQ of Remain refuseniks for quite some time: it served to delay and frustrate others who were preparing for no deal,’ writes Fraser Nelson


Michael Gove is the new Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I understand that his job in that role will be to coordinate the government’s no-deal planning work.


Dominic Raab may find he no longer has time even for his regular club sandwich now he’s Foreign Secretary. Here’s what horrors await him in his new in-tray


Steven Barclay keeps his position as Brexit Secretary:


The Chancellor, the Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary are all children of immigrants. Half of the great offices of state are held by BME politicians. In terms of ethnicity, this will easily be the most diverse Cabinet in British history.


Priti Patel has been confirmed as Home Secretary. The Brexiteer MP had been widely tipped for the role. However, that doesn’t mean her appointment is without controversy. Patel left was sacked by Theresa May in 2017 as DfID Secretary for breaching the ministerial code over unauthorised meetings with Israeli politicians. To return to a much more senior role has raised eyebrows amongst some of her colleagues.

The pair are Vote Leave colleagues from the EU referendum. How will they work together? Priti Patel sits on the right but Johnson plans a liberal approach to immigration in some respects – there is talk that he could ditch the immigration target and adopt a system closer to an Australian points system.


Dominic Raab has been confirmed as Foreign Secretary. He will also be the First Secretary of State. Boris is understood to have wanted a Brexiteer as Foreign Secretary so as to present a united front.


Sajid Javid is the new Chancellor of the Exchequer. He backed Remain in 2016, but in recent months has sounded more optimistic about the government’s ability to mitigate the economic impact of no deal than most. I understand that attitude was one of the things that recommended him to Boris Johnson. The pair also both agree on the need for a big new infrastructure programme for the UK and are sympatico on tax cuts.



As the major Cabinet posts start getting filled, I’ve been going through the various ministerial in-trays to see what’s waiting for the new faces in this departments. Here’s a look at what Priti Patel now has to deal with as she heads to the Home Office.


Priti Patel has been appointed Home Secretary.


‘Boris is clearly set on a thorough clear-out of government, making way for new talent to signal that this is a new, energetic administration. The Conservative party has appeared like an exhausted party at the end of its time in government over the past two or three years, and so Johnson does need to take radical steps to change that impression. But being brutal doesn’t always lead to long-term authority, as bitter sacked ministers use their extra free time on the backbenches to plot.’ writes Isabel Hardman in tonight’s Evening Blend. Sign up here.


Saijid Javid has been appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer


Michael Gove has just entered 10 Downing Street, suggesting he will be in Boris’s Cabinet. Ben Wallace has also entered the building:


‘Jeremy Hunt’s refusal to take the job of Defence Secretary means that for the first time since 2001, the runner up in the Tory leadership contest won’t serve on the winner’s front bench. Hunt’s decision not to take the job of Defence Secretary is not without risk for him. Many Tory members and MPs regard it as one of the best jobs in government so deciding that it is essentially beneath him won’t go down well with everyone.’ writes James Forsyth


Mel Stride is removed as Commons Leader:


Is the appointment of Dominic Cummings a sign that Boris Johnson is planning a snap election? James Kirkup suggests it might be in his Six predictions on what PM Boris means for Britain. ‘The mass-slaying of ministers is also highly suggestive of a Prime Minister who is expecting to go to the country soon,’ writes James on Coffee House. ‘Boris Johnson started with a majority in single figures and then has created a lot of new backbench enemies today. That’s not a recipe for a stable, long-lived government.’


David Mundell has been sacked as the Secretary of State for Scotland. The news will come as a shock to many of the Scottish Conservative MPs who were adamant this week that he would remain in post. The reason? Even though Mundell is sceptical of a no-deal Brexit (concerned it could help the SNP), he was thought to be willing to serve and had ministerial experience. The bulk of the group are from the 2017 intake. Johnson has a Scotland problem in the sense that his popularity there is low in polling and many of the Scottish Conservative MPs are sceptical of him. This will only heighten such concerns amongst this group.


Stephen Crabb, an ally of Boris Johnson, suggests that Sajid Javid has been appointed as Chancellor, but adds ‘if rumours are true’:


Jeremy Hunt has just told journalists in Whitehall that he is heading over to say goodbye to staff at the Foreign Office. Clearly his stand-off with Boris Johnson over whether he would accept another job has ended, with the new Prime Minister the victor. This was seen as a test of Johnson’s authority, and on the basis of the way he is conducting the rest of this reshuffle, he has clearly decided that brutal authority is important.


Jeremy Hunt is out:


Scotland secretary David Mundell is out:


Caroline Nokes confirms her departure:


Boris Johnson might not be widely popular in Northern Ireland, but his decision to sack Karen Bradley as Northern Ireland secretary is already winning him friends across the Irish Sea. Bradley – who admitted that she ‘didn’t understand’ the country’s political divisions when she first got the job – was never a much-loved figure in Northern Ireland.

Northern Irish journalist Sam McBride said of Bradley’s departure: ‘It is rare to achieve such widespread cross-community consensus on anything in Northern Ireland’. Well done Boris…


James Brokenshire’s sacking is telling. He backed Boris Johnson for the leadership, and was one of the first Cabinet Ministers to do so. So, clearly the test is not just loyalty to Boris and a willingness to sign up to October 31.


Under an hour in and Boris Johnson has managed to bring the number of sackings to double figures. Is this really an unexpected show of brutality as some are suggesting? Mr S thinks not. Steerpike suggested this could happen earlier this month after BoJo gave a rather curious answer when asked ‘what’s your favourite movie scene?’ by the Daily Mail over the weekend.

Johnson ominously pointed to The Godfather’s acclaimed ‘Baptism of Fire’ scene – where Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone ruthlessly orchestrates the assassinations of other New York dons:

‘The multiple retribution killings at the end of The Godfather’


Immigration minister Caroline Nokes claims she found out she was sacked from the Daily Mail’s John Stevens:


James Brokenshire has left the government, which is a surprise in some senses, given he was a Boris Johnson supporter. He is also the sort of minister who will just get on with whatever he is told to do, without complaining or briefing against the Prime Minister.

He was, however, particularly loyal to Theresa May and not a particularly high profile or energetic Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary, which might not have chimed with Johnson’s ambition to make housebuilding a noisy priority.


Chris Grayling joins the growing list of Theresa May’s ministers who will not serve in Boris Johnson’s government. However, allies of Chris Grayling insist that it was at his request that he will no longer serve as Transport Secretary. Given that Grayling was a supporter of the Johnson campaign – and a Vote Leave colleague – there was an expectation that he could stay on.

However, ‘Failing Grayling’ as he has come to be known has developed a reputation for ineptitude that means there were concerns about the merits of doing so. His departure along with Liam Fox’s and Penny Mordaunt’s highlights the fact that under a Prime Minister Boris Johnson there is no longer such a premium on being a Brexiteer in Cabinet. Under Theresa May, there was a sense that these figures could not be sacked as this would upset the carefully crafted Remain/Leave balance and finding new Brexiteers who were willing to serve was a difficult ask. Boris Johnson, however, has no shortage of Brexiteers looking for jobs.


James Brokenshire steps down:


Damian Hinds quits as education secretary


It is not a huge surprise that Liam Fox has been sacked from the government. He may be an enthusiastic Brexiteer, but this does not necessarily correlate with being an enthusiastic Boris Johnson supporter. He has in fact long been one of those Tory MPs who will criticise Johnson in private to other MPs, and not just on policy but on personality too.


Penny Mordaunt is out as Defence Secretary. The Brexiteer MP has announced via social media that she will be ‘heading to the backbenches’ from where the Prime Minister will have her full support. Mordaunt’s departure is a surprising in the sense that there were Johnson allies who thought it would be risky to axe the UK’s first female Defence Secretary just a couple of months into the job.

However, figures in the Boris Johnson camp were unhappy with her decision to support Jeremy Hunt in the Tory leadership contest – they claim that they had been led to believe that Mordaunt would back Johnson (however, this a point debated by Mordaunt allies). Will it be a PR own goal? That depends a lot on who replaces Mordaunt. Jeremy Hunt has already been offered the role and declined it (he wants to remain at the Foreign Office). Figures thought to be in the running include Johnson loyalist Ben Wallace and Liz Truss. Michael Fallon – former defence secretary – is also mooted for a Cabinet return…


Boris Johnson is clearly intending a full scale Cabinet clear out. Tonight, Penny Mordaunt, Liam Fox and Greg Clark—who were keen to stay in the government—have all lost their jobs.

When you add to this the four ministers who have already said they don’t want to continue — Hammond, Lidington and Stewart — you already have seven new Cabinet slots. But we expect quite a few more sackings before the night is out.

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