UK’s Johnson tries Cabinet reshuffle

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has carried out a limited Cabinet reshuffle as he seeks to secure his position in No 10 in the face of the Partygate row and mounting Tory discontent.

The changes include new faces in the whips’ office and a fervent Brexiteer in charge of maximising the benefits of leaving the European Union.

Here are the major changes announced by Downing Street:

Mark Spencer moves from chief whip to Commons Leader.

The “big farmer”, as the Prime Minister jokingly refers to him, has paid the price for a series of missteps in managing the parliamentary party.

He played a leading role in trying to get Tory MPs to support a shake-up of Commons sleaze rules in an attempt to spare Owen Paterson from being suspended, incurring their wrath when the controversial plan was subsequently abandoned.

He also failed to prevent a revolt by 100 Tories over COVID-19 rules and faced claims – which he has denied – that he told MP Nusrat Ghani she lost her ministerial role because her Muslim faith made people feel uncomfortable.

His new role will still see him play a major part in liaising between Tory backbenchers and No 10.

Jacob Rees-Mogg moves from Commons Leader to Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency in the Cabinet Office.

Rees-Mogg was another senior figure who supported the plan to change Commons sleaze rules in an attempt to save Mr Paterson. He admitted “I made a mistake” by encouraging Johnson to back the move.

As Minister for Brexit Opportunities, he will hope to deliver some of the benefits of leaving the European Union, although it remains to be seen whether he will be in the job long enough to do that – in 2018 he suggested “the overwhelming opportunity for Brexit is over the next 50 years”.

Rees-Mogg will keep his seat at the Cabinet table, although he is only at a Minister of State level.

Responsibility for maximising Brexit opportunities was previously handled by Lord Frost, who quit the Government in December.

Chris Heaton-Harris becomes Chief Whip, having been Europe Minister.

The Daventry MP was previously chief whip for the Tories in the European Parliament, which will at least give him some idea of the challenges that await him.

He also reportedly played a role in the “shadow whipping operation” aimed at seeing off efforts to oust the prime minister.

Outside of Westminster he is known for a Twitter account which used to heavily feature Christmas cracker-style jokes before his ministerial responsibilities got in the way.

A sense of humour may prove essential as he tries to manage a party which appears set on publicly tearing itself apart.

Christopher Pincher returns as Deputy Chief Whip as part of a host of junior moves.

The Tamworth MP agreed to move from his position in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to take up a role he previously held during Theresa May’s tenure in No 10.

In a straight swap, former deputy chief whip Stuart Andrew was moved to Michael Gove’s department.

Downing Street confirmed James Cleverly was being shifted in the Foreign Office from Middle East and North Africa minister to having responsibility for Europe, while Wendy Morton was handed a promotion within the Department for Transport.

Others saw their workloads increased, with Michael Ellis due to attend Cabinet after having the role of Minister for the Cabinet Office added to his existing post as Paymaster General, and Heather Wheeler was made parliamentary secretary in the Cabinet Office while retaining her whip’s office duties.


David Hughes
(Associated Press)

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