Theresa May has conducted a large cabinet reshuffle in her biggest overhaul since she became prime minister in July 2016.
The first big change announced on Monday was that James Brokenshire had resigned as Northern Ireland secretary, citing ill health; he is due to undergo surgery after discovering a legion on his lung. He has been Northern Ireland secretary since July 2016.
Brandon Lewis has been appointed as Conservative party chairman, a role carries which key admin responsibilities and overseeing the Conservative Campaign Headquarters. James Cleverly, MP for Bexley and Bromley, will be his deputy chairman.
Lewis replaces Sir Patrick McLoughlin as chairman. McLoughlin was expected to be replaced since the Conservatives disappointing general election campaign in June 2017. Speaking to Sky News after leaving No.10 Downing Street, he said that after 8 years in the cabinet he had had “a very good run”.
In initial confusion in the press – much of it taking place on Twitter – before the announcement, Chris Grayling was originally believed to have been appointed the position of Chairman for the Conservative party, as was mistakenly announced on the Conservative Party HQ Twitter account.
This has just been deleted from CCHQ twitter feed pic.twitter.com/jNgfDMQqoM
— Sam Coates Times (@SamCoatesTimes) January 8, 2018
Without a doubt the biggest shock of the re-shuffle came as Justine Greening resigned from the government on Monday afternoon, after being offered the Department of Work and Pensions, which she turned down. She had been secretary of state for education.
Greening was first given the job of education secretary in July 2016, when May became prime minister. Critics of Justine Greening within the Conservative party say that she is at odds with May’s enthusiasm for grammar schools, and too light-hearted with the teaching unions. In December, May’s closest policy adviser Nick Timothy called Greening’s plans for social mobility “full of jargon but short on meaningful policies” and that “it would have been better left unpublished”.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, offered his sympathies to Greening, saying she “tried hard to tackle the school funding crisis, without any help from the Chancellor or Prime Minister.”
Damian Hinds, the Member of Parliament (MP) for the East Hampshire, replaces Justine Greening as secretary of state for Education, having formerly served as employment minister at the Department for Work and Pensions.
Jeremy Hunt has had his title changed from health secretary to secretary of state for health and social care. The combination of the two areas in his job title suggests that the government may soon look to integrate health and social care, as wanted by many policymakers in this area. English councils’ adult social care budgets have been cut by £6bn since 2010 – the next moves of Hunt and the government are sure to be closely watched from all sides.
David Lidington has moved from his position as justice minister to Cabinet Office minister and chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He replaces Damian Green, but has not been given the title of first secretary of state. Green was sacked from Theresa May’s cabinet in December for not telling the truth about pornography found on his office computer during a police raid.
Lidington has been the Member of Parliament for Aylesbury since 1992. He was given the position of Leader of the House of Commons under Theresa May, and promoted to Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor since June 2017.
So what does new title of Sec of State for Health and Social Care actually mean? I was Minister responsible for social care IN Health Department in 2015 so unless they are proposing change to funding of social care, this looks like window dressing
— Norman Lamb (@normanlamb) January 8, 2018
In other promotions, Matt Hancock, the minister for digital, has become secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, having served as Minister of State for Digital and Culture since July 2016.
Karen Bradley, the culture secretary, is replacing James Brokenshire as Northern Ireland secretary. The move is likely to be an effort by Theresa May to keep a friend in Northern Ireland, as Bradley is a colleague of the PM from their days in the Home Office.
Also seen as a ‘safe pair of hands’, David Gauke has been appointed as the new justice secretary and lord chancellor. The former solicitor and work and pensions secretary will have the ongoing crisis in the prison systems as his first priority in the role, as well as examining the impact of cuts to legal aid in recent years.
The biggest figures in May’s cabinet – chancellor Philip Hammond, home secretary Amber Rudd, foreign secretary Boris Johnson and David Davis, all keep their jobs. They were all expected to stay in place, as it is unlikely that May would pick a fight with any possible contenders given she is still in a far weaker position than when she began as PM.
Dan Cody is Editor-in-Chief at No Majesty.