On Thursday, Boris Johnson will reshuffle his cabinet for the first time since winning a majority of 80. Soon after the election result, there was talk of a Valentine’s Day massacre in which multiple ministers would lose their jobs. However, in recent weeks there have been suggestions that it won’t be as drastic a reorganisation as first expected. This is in part because the accompanying Whitehall reorganisation has been scaled down – though some departments are still to be merged. While conversations over the reshuffle are ongoing, certain themes have emerged.
Since MPs returned to Parliament from the Christmas recess, No. 10 have used the threat of a looming reshuffle to try to change ministers’ behaviour. As I first reported in the i paper, No. 10 prefers cabinet ministers to not parade on the media, brown nose the Prime Minister or talk for too long at cabinet. Too much time spent wining and dining the media is also frowned upon. The way to get on? Focusing on departmental progress rather than media hits.
That’s not to say an ability to perform well on media is of no value. Who is in No. 10’s good books can often be gauged by who is sent on to represent the government. Those ministers who are kept off the airwaves are kept off for a reason. When it comes to ministers thought to be vulnerable next week, Theresa Villiers, Geoffrey Cox and Andrea Leadsom frequently come up as ministers whose time could soon be up. Jacob Rees-Mogg had been tipped for the sack following his election comments on Grenfell which saw him take a backseat for the rest of the campaign. However, Rees-Mogg has since worked on his relations with Downing Street and he is expected to remain in cabinet – though you shouldn’t expect to see him doing any more hour-long radio phone-ins.
As for the great offices of state, it would be a surprise if any of the current occupants were moved. Sajid Javid has been publicly assured that he will stay put as Chancellor. But it’s safe to say the past fortnight has not been particularly helpful when it comes to his standing – a number of briefings have put strain on the No. 10/No. 11 relationship. However, it is likely Javid will stay put with work on next month’s Budget underway. No. 10 and No. 11 are in sync on the main themes of the Budget and share a view that it offers the best opportunity of the government’s tenure to bring in revenue raising measures – some senior Tories believe this could include some form of recurring property tax.
When it comes to promotion, No. 10 want to reward competence and nurture talent. If you are looking for a set of ministers who represent the rising stars of the new regime it’s Rishi Sunak, Robert Jenrick and Oliver Dowden. During the leadership election, this trio penned a joint article announcing that they were backing Johnson for leader. It was viewed as a pivotal moment within the leadership campaign for bringing more MPs on board and making Johnson’s bid a successful one. They were seen as pragmatic rising stars so others soon followed suit. All three have been in favour since and are likely to either stay put or be promoted.
In the junior ministerial reshuffle, expect a lot of movement and change. As Johnson is assured another four years in government at the very least, plans are afoot to get talented individuals on the right track so that they can be promoted to more senior roles in a few years’ time. This will likely include a large number of female MPs. There’s a sense that Johnson’s cabinet is male heavy but they can only make it more balanced if the right people first get the necessary experience. Among the female MPs who are viewed as ones to watch are Helen Whately, Lucy Frazer and Victoria Atkins.