Tightening his grip, Johnson begins to reshape UK government
LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson will reshape his government on Thursday, appointing a team he hopes will deliver his vision for Britain beyond Brexit and heal the divisions both in his Conservative Party and the country.
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid attend the weekly question time debate in Parliament in London, Britain, February 12, 2020. ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS
The reshuffle is not expected to be as explosive as some commentators had suggested, based on his senior adviser Dominic Cummings’ well-publicised desire to see a radical reorganisation of government to fit Johnson’s agenda.
Instead, a source in his office said Johnson was keen to foster new talent, particularly among women, in the junior ranks of government while also rewarding loyal supporters who helped him win a large majority in last year’s election.
For now, Johnson is not expected to rock the boat too much, but he started his reshuffle with the sacking of Northern Ireland minister Julian Smith. Only a month ago Smith helped broker the restoration of a Northern Irish government, three years after a power-sharing agreement broke down.
“The prime minister wants this reshuffle to set the foundations for government now and in the future,” a source in his Downing Street office said.
“He wants to promote a generation of talent that will be promoted further in the coming years. He will reward those MPs (members of parliament) who have worked hard to deliver on this government’s priorities to level up the whole country and deliver the change people voted for last year.”
NO RADICAL OVERHAUL EXPECTED
Several Conservative officials said now was not the time for the radical transformation of government many had anticipated. Cummings, who worked with Johnson on Britain’s Brexit campaign, had long argued for a shake up.
That would be costly, they said, as well as disruptive at a time when Johnson must stay on good terms with those voters who gave him such a hefty majority, many of them traditional supporters of Britain’s opposition Labour Party.
He also wants to wage parallel trade negotiations with the EU and the United States, which observers in Brussels and Washington say will not be easy, and host a meeting of world leaders in November at the COP26 climate change summit.
“The question he will be asking of them is ‘are you tame?’” one veteran Conservative said, adding Johnson’s team wanted a new government that pulls together to meet his goals.
So instead of merging departments, Johnson is expected to promote lawmakers and ministers who backed him before last year’s election and who are on board with his agenda.
The source said Johnson was expected to promote several women such as Anne-Marie Trevelyan, minister for the armed forces, Suella Braverman, a former Brexit junior minister, and Gillian Keegan.
Oliver Dowden, a minister in the Cabinet Office, and Alok Sharma, the international development minister, are also expected to be promoted.
Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; additional reporting by William James, Editing by Gareth Jones