Theresa May spent the first full day of her premiership clearing out her ministerial team in a sweeping reshuffle that leaves no doubt about the new Prime Minister’s authority, and decisively breaks with the past.
Downing Street said Mrs May had assembled a “bold” Cabinet putting social reform at the heart of her government, but critics accused her of lurching to the right.
From Boris Johnson as our Foreign Secretary to David Davis as Brexit minister and Liam Fox for trade, it will be Brexiteers who are taking forward UK foreign policyANGUS ROBERTSON
Last night Mrs May also announced that Scotland would be the first visit of her premiership, to show her personal commitment to the Union.
The Prime Minister will arrive in Edinburgh today, less than 48 hours after taking office, to stress to the Scottish people that her government will “be on their side”.
Mrs May will hold talks at Bute House with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, after the SNP leader said it was “highly likely” Scotland would have a second independence referendum because voters had strongly rejected Brexit.
Almost all of the top Cabinet jobs have now changed hands. Michael Gove, the last survivor in government of the “Notting Hill set” that was the nucleus of David Cameron’s Tory leadership, was sent to the backbenches to join the former prime minister and George Osborne, who was sacked as Chancellor on Wednesday. Another Cameron ally, Oliver Letwin, was also dismissed, as were John Whittingdale, the culture secretary, and Nicky Morgan, the education secretary.
Prominent Leave campaigners promoted to senior positions include Mrs May’s rival for the Tory leadership, Andrea Leadsom, who becomes environment secretary, and Priti Patel, who becomes the new international development secretary – despite suggesting three years ago that the department should be scrapped. Chris Grayling, another Brexit supporter who managed Mrs May’s leadership campaign, has been made transport secretary.
Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers and work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb both quit, with Ms Villiers turning down a more junior role. Mr Crabb, who last week was the subject of newspaper claims he sent explicit texts to a younger woman despite being married, said he was standing down “in the best interests of my family”.
Mrs May has made major reforms to the structure of government, merging the Department of Energy and Climate Change, which had significant responsibilities in the renewable and oil and gas sectors, into a new ministry for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
She also created two ministries, to negotiate Brexit and international trade deals. David Davis is secretary for leaving the EU, while Liam Fox – who quit as defence secretary in 2011 amid revelations a friend, Adam Werritty, had travelled with him on official business – will oversee international trade.
Those appointments, along with the shock promotion of Boris Johnson to the Foreign Office, means Mrs May has satisfied Brexit-supporting backbenchers while making Leave campaigners responsible for the difficult task of extracting the UK from the EU.
Downing Street sources had previously briefed that Ms May’s Cabinet would see more women in senior roles, but last night there were eight women set to attend Cabinet, including Mrs May, of 25 posts confirmed compared with ten women under Mr Cameron.
The SNP’s Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, was scathing about Mrs May’s team. He said: “From Boris Johnson as our Foreign Secretary – a man who will now be representing us on the world stage – to David Davis as Brexit minister and Liam Fox for trade, it will be Brexiteers who are taking forward UK foreign policy.
“We also have Jeremy Hunt being re-appointed as Health Secretary, despite the ongoing disputes with junior doctors, and Priti Patel as minister for international development, despite calling for the department to be abolished.
“That the department for energy and climate change is being merged with business, innovation and skills, is also particularly worrying, given the current challenges facing the energy sector.”
Labour accused Ms May of making a “sharp turn to the right”.
Jon Ashworth, shadow minister without portfolio, said: “We had warm words from the Prime Minister yesterday on the need for her government to stand up for more than just a privileged few, but Theresa May’s appointments are completely out of kilter with her words on the steps of Downing Street yesterday.”