The reshuffle was more dramatic than expected, with Liz Truss promoted to foreign secretary, Dominic Raab moved to the justice department and given the deputy prime minister title, and Michael Gove given the hardest brief: housing.
Commentators have struggled to see a theme, which means several have been offered.
I saw Truss’s promotion as an attempt to balance the overweening power of Rishi Sunak in Boris Johnson’s cabinet.
It was notable that the chancellor lost three of his four junior ministers in what looked like an attempt by the prime minister to assert his authority in the Treasury.
Others saw the shuffle as a sign that Johnson was preparing for an early election, with the trusted Oliver Dowden sent to Conservative HQ as party chair to sort out the machine. But “allies” of the prime minister have briefed The Times this morning that he is aiming for an election in 2024 rather than 2023.
That would fit with the other theme that has been read into the changes, which is that Johnson wants to focus on delivering his manifesto promises, which would take time, with Gove at the housing department perhaps the most important part of the “levelling up” plan.
The revolt of the nimbys that destroyed Robert Jenrick’s attempt to ease planning restrictions to allow more houses to be built means that this is one of the government’s hardest challenges, and Gove, who was reported to be “bored” in his previous troubleshooter role at the Cabinet Office, can get stuck into it.
The other important function of a reshuffle, of course, is simply to keep the ministerial merry-go-round turning, so that older MPs can be retired as gracefully as possible and new talent can be promoted – giving hope and buying loyalty from the ambitious new intakes of MPs.
But what does it mean for the government and what does it mean for Sir Kier Starmer’s opposition? How will it affect international relations? What will it do to the continuing Brexit complications, and how we continue to battle Covid – and what about the next general election?
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