Theresa May swings axe in ‘reboot’ reshuffle: Tory HQ cleared out to make way for more women

Theresa May swung an axe at the Tory campaign machine today in a “reboot” reshuffle that is expected to see party chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin and Education Secretary Justine Greening leave their posts.

The Prime Minister began her first reshuffle since last year’s general election disaster by appointing a whole new team at Conservative Campaign HQ.

Among those set to join it was Kemi Badenoch, the newly elected black MP for Saffron Walden who symbolised Mrs May’s wish to bring on young talent and to make the party high command more reflective of Britain’s diverse communities.

             New MP Kemi Badenoch

At least four new faces were expected to be installed in party HQ to get the Tories ready to take on Jeremy Corbyn at the next general election, due in 2022.

The key Cabinet changes were coming later today. Speculation that former nurse Anne Milton will take over the sensitive Department of Health was fuelled when her Wikipedia entry was changed this morning regarding the position of her husband as a former executive at Virgin Care.

 The new entry said Dr Graham Henderson “previously served” in the position, suggesting somebody was keen to avoid an impression of a conflict of interest if she were confirmed in the post. Minutes later, however, it changed back.

Jeremy Hunt, the current Health Secretary, was tipped by many colleagues to fill the position of First Secretary of State, which is vacant following Damian Green’s resignation last month.

Mr Green’s replacement is expected to inherit his 20 Cabinet committee places, making this the most politically charged appointment. Other names being touted for the post included David Lidington, the Justice Secretary.

James Brokenshire resigned as Northern Ireland Secretary on health grounds moments before the reshuffle. He requires a lung operation.

Insiders confirmed that there was no change to the four most senior ministers involved in the Brexit process: Chancellor Philip Hammond, Brexit Secretary David Davis, Home Secretary Amber Rudd, and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox. Boris Johnson was also staying as Foreign Secretary.

The big focus of what Mrs May’s allies called a “significant reshuffle” were the changes further down, including the “reboot of party headquarters”.

Reports that sacked ministers would be forced to walk up Downing Street to be given the bad news were denied by No 10, indicating that Mrs May was delivering her dismissal notices in private. However, all those being confirmed in the same job were due to process through the front door of No 10, making it harder for the watching media to guess who had got what.

Ms Greening looked certain to be axed from the Department for Education, having suffocated Mrs May’s plan for new grammar schools. But sources said she could move sideways rather than be fired outright.

Mrs May’s allies said she would be promoting women and MPs from ethnic minorities to “ensure the Government looks more like the country we aspire to represent”.

Among female ministers tipped for promotion were Margot James, the business minister; Harriett Baldwin, junior minister for defence; and backbenchers such as Lucy Frazer, Victoria Prentis and Anne-Marie Trevelyan.

From the growing clutch of black and minority ethnic MPs, former London Assembly member James Cleverly, MP for Braintree, was set for a first job in Government. Other backbenchers tipped included ex-businessman Rishi Sunak, MP for Richmond in North Yorkshire, and the Wealden MP Nus Ghani.

“There is recognition of the need for renewal,” said a May ally. “There’s a recognition it needs to happen alongside delivering on housing, health and social care.”

Sources poured cold water on a report that Brexit minister Steve Baker would be appointed the minister for a “no-deal Brexit”, briefing the Cabinet on a Plan B if talks broke down with the other 27 EU members. A source insisted such an outcome to the talks would not happen, but left open whether Mr Baker would attend Cabinet.

Sir Patrick’s departure breaks the last senior ministerial link with the Thatcher government. The former miner served in Cabinets for Mrs Thatcher, John Major and David Cameron but carried the can for last year’s election failings.

At the weekend, Mrs May insisted that she still wanted to lead her party into the next election, declaring: “I’m not a quitter. I’m in this for the long term.”

Written By: JOE MURPHY 

First Published 08/01/2018:

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