Boris Johnson’s Cabinet reshuffle was a brutal display of authority by a PM at the height of his powers
GONE at last! Thank God, bungling Education “supremo” Gavin Williamson is gone at last.
It eclipses even the titanic struggle between the PM and doomed Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
Karate black belt Raab went in kung fu fighting to save his job but emerged bruised and demoted to Justice Secretary. It is a role that might actually suit his rather plodding skill set.
Raab reportedly threw a “hissy fit” as he argued with the PM in his Commons suite for more than an hour. It was grossly unfair to ditch him after all he had done for Boris, he insisted.
But his baton as Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, one of the top three offices of State, was passed to rising star Liz Truss as part of this diversity reshuffle.
Ms Truss shot to the top of the Tory pops by securing dozens of post-Brexit trade deals with key allies from India to Australia. Only free-spending Chancellor Rishi Sunak is more popular.
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But the Foreign Office is a tough job, with soggy-bottomed mandarins resisting just about every Tory policy from Brexit, to the Middle East, China and Russia.
Crafty Boris may be secretly hoping snooty officials will take the shine off Liz’s appeal with grass-roots Tories.
“She must not go native, like all the others,” said a Downing Street expert.
This shake-up was billed by No10 as the “levelling-up, post-pandemic reshuffle”.
Compared with some previous fiascos, including Theresa May’s chaotic sackings and hirings, it went pretty well. With livewire Michael Gove kick-starting Housing and Communities and no-nonsense Oliver Dowden as Tory Party chairman, it has the makings of a 2023 election Cabinet.
Dowden’s job as Culture Secretary goes to I’m A Celeb Tory firebrand Nadine Dorries, a sign that Boris is ready at last to take on the pernicious woke culture and what Dorries describes as “left-wing snowflakes”.
Boris’s new line-up goes a long way to injecting much-needed vigour into a plodding, low-grade frontbench team.
If anyone epitomises this lacklustre image, it was Gavin Williamson, the Frank Spencer lookalike whose pratfalls reminded voters of the TV comedy series Some Mothers Do ’Ave ’Em . . . without the laughs.
As an effective Chief Whip under Theresa May, Williamson kept a sinister live tarantula on his desk.
He was promoted above his capabilities, first to Defence Secretary and then to Education, failing dismally in both.
From last summer’s exams fiasco, when A* grades were dished out like sweets, to his abject capitulation on school closures, the ex-pottery salesman scored “F, F, F” in every subject.
The last straw came when hapless Gavin claimed last week to have chatted on Zoom with Man U’s Marcus Rashford, perhaps the most recognisable soccer star in the land.
It turned out he had actually been talking to England rugby player Maro Itoje. The cringe-making cock-up sealed his political doom. He is replaced by vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi.
Dominic Raab signed his own death warrant last month by staying on holiday in the Med as Afghanistan was overrun by the Taliban, with British troops in one of the biggest retreats since Dunkirk.
Yes, Boris should have rejected Raab’s request to carry on sunning himself. But no top-flight Foreign Secretary would have asked. He would be on the first VIP jet home.
Raab’s demotion came as a bitter blow to this proud Cabinet loyalist and fervent Brexit ally who ran for the job as Tory leader before backing Boris.
In his role as First Secretary of State he stood in for the PM as he fought for life against Covid last year.
Raab’s new role carries the title of Lord Chancellor, nominally the UK’s most senior office of state, along with the official tag as Deputy PM.
But his new office is a long way from the vast desk in the FO’s gilded Palmerston Room, big enough to accommodate a couple of two-bedroom flats.
DRIVE ON SOCIAL CARE
Michael Gove’s shift from the Cabinet Office to the apparently humdrum Housing and Communities slot is fascinating.
Gove is rated as one of the best organisers in government. His job will be to shake up the slow-moving house-building programme and drive the levelling-up agenda, boosting the ambitions of Red Wall Tory voters.
Part of his agenda will be dovetailing low-cost housing with the Government’s multi-billion drive on social care.
Nick Sanderson, a campaigner for specialised housing, said: “The need for change is urgent but it must be meaningful, bringing together housing, health and social care under one banner.”
All in all, a quite brutal display of authority by a Prime Minister at the height of his powers.
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