Boris Johnson has a new lease of life after throwing dead wood on the pyre in a reshuffle of his Cabinet.
Blundering Gavin Williamson was finally sacked – as Tory activists were told to start preparing for an election.
New party chairman Oliver Dowden told Tory HQ the “weeks and months ahead” are what matters and “the groundwork starts now”.
He added “you don’t fatten a pig on market day”, leaving many thinking a poll could come sooner than the scheduled date of spring 2024.
All this is exciting for Boris Johnson – but is the new Cabinet the crack team it’s cracked up to be, or is it a bit… er, cracked?
Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street)
While activists are excited about a new-look team, here are eight reasons the Tories’ critics may be a little bit less enthusiastic.
Trade Secretary once said global warming didn’t exist
Boris Johnson’s new Trade Secretary once said “global warming isn’t actually happening”.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan, former climate minister, posted a number of tweets over a course of months nine years ago suggesting climate change is a myth.
In January 2012, she asked: “Will we need global warming to protect us from the overdue ice age expected in the next Millennium?”
Three months later, she posted: “We aren’t getting hotter, global warming isn’t actually happening” and tagged the former MEP Daniel Hannan who is now an adviser to the Board of Trade.
Eight weeks later, in June 2012, Ms Trevelyan said there is “clear evidence that the ice caps aren’t melting after all, to counter those doom-mongers and global warming fanatics.”
The PM’s official spokesman said: “Every single member of Cabinet is united in our approach to achieve our ambitious climate target goals.”
Culture Secretary is a furious critic of the BBC
Nadine Dorries, the new Culture Secretary, has repeatedly criticised the BBC which now comes under her responsibilities.
In 2012 she suggested ministers should withhold the licence fee payout at a round of negotiations, unless the BBC did more to address discrimination.
In February 2020 she wrote: “The BBC favour strident, very left wing, often hypocritical and frequently patronising views that turn people away.”
She also accused “left leaning gotcha” journalists of trying to “trip up the gov trying to keep people safe” in No10 Covid press briefings.
And in 2017 she claimed “left wing snowflakes are killing comedy, tearing down historic statues, removing books from universities, dumbing down panto, removing Christ from Christmas and suppressing free speech.”
Culture wars, it seems, may become even more familiar in the coming months.
And that’s not to mention some of her other past tweets. In April 2013 she wrote: “Apparently I’m racist because I think Chuck [sic] Umunna looks like Chris Eubank? What would I be if I said he looked like someone who was white??”
In March 2018 she commented on a video of London’s first Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan, reading out death threats that called him a ‘Muslim terrorist’. She responded: “How about, ‘it’s time to act on sex abusing grooming gangs’, instead?
Foreign Secretary met right-wing US groups
During a 2018 trip to Washington DC, Liz Truss held “off the record” meetings with right wing Republican pressure groups.
Ms Truss, who was then Chief Secretary to the Treasury, held talks with the Heritage Foundation and the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) – both of which were supporters of Donald Trump, and lobby governments to reduce regulations on business.
The Heritage Foundation rejects the scientific consensus on climate change and promoted false claims of voter fraud following last year’s election.
Neither view is likely to be popular with the new Biden administration.
AFP via Getty Images)
Housing Secretary is wearing many, many hats
While Michael Gove is pretty respected in Tory circles, there’s plenty to raise alarm bells about his move to housing.
Firstly, one possible reason for his predecessor’s sacking was housing reforms that annoyed the Tory faithful. But those reforms are already quite far down the track – so will Mr Gove axe them entirely, or tweak? Planning is a thorny policy, and we know from his days at Education that he can become a lightning rod for controversy.
Secondly, it shows yet more churn. The 10th Housing Minister in 10 years hadn’t been replaced (as of 5pm Thursday), but Mr Gove is the fifth Secretary of State in six years.
Thirdly and most importantly, Mr Gove is still wearing a LOT of hats.
Not only is he taking on “cross-government responsibility” for levelling up, he’s also responsible for the Union (even though his new department is mostly England-only).
Those are two of the biggest pledges by Boris Johnson and they suck out gallons of political oxygen – especially if the SNP get a new independence vote.
Meanwhile the housing crisis is real and severe. Is it not a full-time job?
Education Secretary says parents “prefer” to pay for free school meals
Nadhim Zahawi will want to get a handle on free school meals policy after the Government was forced into several U-turns under his bungling predecessor.
But the multi-millionaire Tory has already stoked controversy on the issue.
As footballer Marcus Rashford ramped up pressure on ministers to feed hungry kids in the holidays last October, Mr Zahawi claimed struggling families didn’t want free meals.
The former oil executive told the BBC he had worked on holiday club pilots for free meals with former MP Frank Field.
“The research when we did the pilot demonstrates that families didn’t just want the meals,” he said.
AFP via Getty Images)
“Although they valued the meals, they didn’t like the labelling of them being free. They actually prefer to pay a modest amount, £1 or £2.
“But they valued the additional focus on exercise and on reading fun books and so on through the holiday”.
Mr Zahawi had to apologise in 2013 after the Sunday Mirror revealed he claimed expenses for energy used to run the stables on his private estate.
The MP for Stratford-on-Avon said he was “mortified” and promised to pay back any money found to have been wrongly claimed.
Justice Secretary says he’s not a feminist
Ex-Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab avoided being sacked from the Cabinet after criticism of his handling of the crisis in Afghanistan.
He refused to quit when it emerged he was on a family holiday in Crete when Kabul fell to the Taliban.
Instead he was moved to the Ministry of Justice – and wangled himself a new title as Deputy Prime Minister to make up for the demotion.
He got into hot water earlier in his career at his description of some feminists as “obnoxious bigots” in a 2011 online article, when he also attacked the “equality bandwagon” and said men were getting “a raw deal”.
During the 2019 leadership battle, he said he would “probably not” describe himself as a feminist but he championed equality and meritocracy.
He also previously indicated he would oppose reforms to make it easier for trans people to change their legal gender.
These remarks are likely to come under fresh scrutiny in his new role at the Ministry of Justice, which has responsibility for gender recognition certificates and improving rape convictions.
Long-serving schools minister ousted as fears mount over kids catch-up
Veteran Schools minister Nick Gibb was sacked after being a stalwart of Tory Governments over the past 10 years.
The new Education Secretary will be keen to put his own stamp on the brief but he may miss the experience Mr Gibb had in the role.
The upheaval at the department comes as schools face a major uphill battle to help children catch up after the pandemic.
Gavin Williamson lost a battle with the Treasury over cash for catch-up programmes – and his successor will need to hit the ground running ahead of the autumn Spending Review.
Almost half went to Oxford or Cambridge and 60% attended a private school
No 10 has boasted that Boris Johnson leads “one of the most diverse cabinets in history”.
But analysis shows that 60% attended private schools and nearly half of the top ministers went to Oxbridge.
Data from the Sutton Trust found six out of 10 cabinet ministers were privately educated – a slight fall from 64% in the 2019 cabinet and 65% after the 2020 reshuffle.
Only 29% of MPs were privately educated overall.
Some 46% of those in the Cabinet studied at Oxford or Cambridge, compare to 27% of all Tory MPs, 18% of Labour MPs and 24% of all MPs.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, who was born in Iraq, went to a comprehensive school before attending private King’s College School in Wimbledon.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It is factual to say it is one of the most diverse cabinets in history.
“All members of Cabinet will be united in the work around levelling-up and building back better from this pandemic.”