Boris Johnson to chair first meeting of new-look Cabinet

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Boris Johnson will chair a first meeting of his new-look Cabinet after a dramatic shake-up of his ministerial team.

The bloodletting which saw three Cabinet ministers sacked from the Government on Wednesday continued in the lower ranks of the administration, with some lengthy frontbench careers ended at a stroke.

Former Cabinet minister John Whittingdale – who had been serving as media minister – was the highest-profile casualty, while Nick Gibb’s lengthy tenure in the Department for Education was also brought to an end.

Jesse Norman, Caroline Dinenage, Luke Hall, Justin Tomlinson, Graham Stuart, James Duddridge and Matt Warman also lost their ministerial jobs.

Penny Mordaunt was replaced as Paymaster General by former solicitor general Michael Ellis, but picked up a role at the Department for International Trade.

Conor Burns, who resigned from government in May 2020 after an investigation found he threatened a company chairman over a financial dispute with his father, returns to the front benches.

Mr Burns, who was suspended from Parliament for seven days following an investigation into his conduct, has been made minister of state in the Northern Ireland Office.

Alex Chalk has been appointed Solicitor General while Chloe Smith has been made a minister of state at the Department for Work and Pension and Robin Walker goes to the Department for Education.

A shake-up of Treasury ministers saw Lucy Frazer become Financial Secretary and Helen Whately become Exchequer Secretary.

At the Department of Health and Social Care, Gillian Keegan is a minister of state while Maggie Throup is a junior minister.

Victoria Atkins moves from the Home Office to become minister of state at the Ministry of Justice but will remain responsible for the Afghan resettlement scheme and Operation Warm Welcome.

Lee Rowley has been made a junior minister at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and a Government whip, while Amanda Solloway also heads to the whips’ office.

Neil O’Brien – who was Mr Johnson’s “levelling up” adviser – has been made a junior minister at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Among the other appointments, Mr Johnson’s former ministerial aide Trudy Harrison is now a junior minister in the Department for Transport.

Friday’s meeting of the Cabinet will see Dominic Raab in his new role as Deputy Prime Minister.

Downing Street said he would continue to play an “important senior role” in Government despite his demotion from foreign secretary.

Mr Raab, who was moved to Justice Secretary, was seen as one of the big losers in the reshuffle.

The announcement that he was to be given the title Deputy Prime Minister was seen as little more than a consolation after losing one of the “great offices of state”.

Downing Street refused to be drawn on reports that Mr Raab had resisted the change during a tense conversation with the Prime Minister on Wednesday.

However, Mr Johnson’s official spokesman insisted it had been a “planned move” and that the Esher and Walton MP’s new title reflected the Prime Minister’s continuing trust in him.

“This formalises Dominic Raab’s position as the Prime Minister’s deputy – he will stand in for him at PMQs; it demonstrates his seniority within Government and the trust the Prime Minister places with him,” the spokesman said.

“You can expect him to be involved in cross-governmental work when that is necessitated. It is clear he will play an important senior role in Government.”

Liz Truss, the new Foreign Secretary, arriving at the Foreign Office
Liz Truss, the new Foreign Secretary, arrives at the Foreign Office (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Raab’s replacement by Liz Truss followed criticism of his handling of the Afghanistan crisis and his delay in returning from his holiday in Crete after Kabul fell to the Taliban.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Ms Truss’s replacement as International Trade Secretary, was criticised by Labour over past tweets denying climate change.

“We aren’t getting hotter, global warming isn’t actually happening,” one message from 2012 said.

Shadow international trade secretary Emily Thornberry said “at least the last Trade Secretary only hired climate change deniers”, in an apparent reference to former Australian premier Tony Abbott, who is a trade adviser.

In a letter to Ms Trevelyan, she added: “Whatever your past statements on this issue, you have an opportunity to make a difference in a key area before Cop26.”

In Wednesday’s Cabinet changes, Gavin Williamson was fired as education secretary following his handling of the exams fiasco during the coronavirus crisis, while Robert Buckland lost his job as justice secretary and Robert Jenrick was sacked as communities secretary.

Ben Wallace, who survived as Defence Secretary, insisted the Prime Minister did not sack any of his top team due to incompetence, and said the criticism of Mr Williamson in the media had been “unfair”.

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