Prime Minister May’s New Government
They used to say a week is a long time in politics… Following a rollercoaster few weeks, former Home Secretary, Theresa May, has appointed her first Cabinet as the second ever female Prime Minister. Despite speeches signalling a continuation of David Cameron’s progressive One Nation Conservatism, her government looks distinctly different, including the merging of the BIS and DECC departments and the creation of a new one post-EU referendum. Patrick Kidd of The Times dubbed it the “Day of the short stilettos” as former frontbenchers Osborne, Gove, Letwin, Hancock, Villiers and Morgan were amongst those sacked. Quite fitting that May entered Downing Street on the 54th anniversary of Harold Macmillan’s Night of the Long Knives.
James Kirkup of The Telegraph called this reshuffle one where “Leavers get to do Brexit and deal with its consequences” while “One Nation Remainers get to do modernisation without Cameron.” An apt analysis, given May has brought more same sex marriage opponents and Brexiteers into her new Cabinet as she seeks to unite the party.
Long-time ally of May, Philip Hammond, becomes Chancellor. He has already indicated towards an increase in government borrowing and spending to help the economy adjust to the “shock” of Brexit – further evidence of change from the previous administration. He also told LBC that he would like Britain to negotiate access to the single market, “so we can go on selling our goods and services into the European Union market and indeed enjoying the benefits of consuming European Union goods and services here as we do now”.
Another ally and chairman of May’s leadership campaign, Chris Grayling, gets the Transport brief, while Amber Rudd becomes Home Secretary, Ben Gummer Cabinet Office Minister, Liz Truss Justice Secretary, Karen Bradley Culture Secretary and Sajid Javid in charge of DCLG. Jeremy Hunt remains Health Secretary and Michael Fallon retains his Defence brief too.
David Davis has been appointed Minister of a new government department for implementing Brexit: a prominent Tory Eurosceptic and Leave campaigner, who was a former minister for Europe in John Major’s government in the 1990s. Earlier this week in a ConservativeHome article, he recommended that Article 50, the formal pathway to Brexit, should be triggered by the beginning of next year, with formal departure “around December 2018”. Meanwhile, the task of striking new international trade deals is given to Liam Fox, a globally-minded Brexiteer. Alongside Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary and Andrea Leadsom in charge of DEFRA, senior Leave MPs have certainly taken control over the departments which will be most affected by Brexit – and also shows May isn’t shying away from risk or controversy.
Stephen Crabb, who recently replaced Iain Duncan Smith as Work and Pensions Secretary in March, will now swiftly be replaced by Damian Green, the former Home Office minister who had been serving on the back benches since 2014.
Justine Greening becomes the first education secretary to have been wholly taught at a comprehensive school. She takes on an enlarged department, also becoming responsible for higher education, given that BIS has been incorporated into a new department for of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy led by former communities minister Greg Clark. Greening also becomes the UK’s first ever LGBT Minister of Equalities.
What’s interesting, and perhaps a nod to the way the country currently views politicians, is that only 30% of May’s ministers went to private schools – the lowest proportion for a new Cabinet since Clement Attlee’s ministers in 1945. However, the predicted “march of May’s women” was somewhat premature, as only one more woman has been appointed to Cabinet.
Today, May is using her first official trip to meet Nicola Sturgeon in Edinburgh for Brexit discussions. May has vowed to maintain the “precious bond” between the UK nations at the heart of her work, despite the Scottish First Minister’s repeated calls for a second independence referendum. Chancellor Philip Hammond yesterday said that the “best place for Scotland” was inside the UK economy and outside the EU.
This has delayed her ongoing Cabinet reshuffle, but we will keep you updated with key announcements.