Published:

154 comments

Here’s a take on what could happen in any reshuffle later this week.

It is not only not a prediction, it is not even a probability: it is simply one view of possibilities.

– – –

Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer.

No change or out

Before the campaign began, it seemed unlikely that the Chancellor, though horribly mauled during the NICs Budget fiasco, would be moved – if only because it seemed unlikely that any other members of May’s top team would be either.  And he may well still be in post after the reshuffle.

None the less, Team May has made sparing use of him during the campaign, and he has been dogged by questions about his future.  A Chancellor who is not deployed against the most profligate Opposition in recent years is not a Chancellor who can be sure of keeping his job.

If the Prime Minister thinks he can’t be of use at the Treasury, she’s unlikely to think that he can be so elsewhere, and Hammond would anyway surely leave the Government rather than swallow a demotion.  Finally, he has risen by brainpower, not popularity – and thus may be considered dispensable even if the Tory majority is small.

Possible replacements:

  • Amber Rudd, if May wants to appoint the first woman Chancellor (and perhaps find some cover for sacking some women lower down the Cabinet ranks).
  • Michael Fallon, if he has not somehow blotted his copybook over the top rate tax, would offer the required gravitas – and some free market balance to the Prime Minister’s interventionist programme.
  • Damian Green who, as a longstanding friend and colleague of May, would represent a takeover by her team at the Treasury.
  • Greg Clark, a loyal servant of the leadership, and the thinker charged with devising and implementing the industrial strategy.

– – –

Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary.

No change.

Johnson is as prone to freelancing than ever: consider his recent suggestion that the Government might go to war in Syria without a Commons vote.  And his diplomatic push to oust Assad was stifled at birth.

But the logic of his appointment last summer still stands – namely, that the Prime Minister needs the razzmatazz, panache and reach of Vote Leave’s figurehead to help sell any Brexit deal.

Nor can he airly be claimed to have been an under-performing Foreign Secretary to date: for example, he has worked hard to establish good relations with the Trump administration.

– – –

Amber Rudd, Home Secretary

No change or sideways

With Johnson, Green, Fallon and David Davis, Rudd has been a member of the core Conservative campaigning team during this election – standing in for May during the TV “debate of the losers”.

Since she has only been in the Home Office a year, it would be odd to uproot her just as she is bedding in, especially during a security crisis.  It is possible to imagine her moving to the Treasury, but the transfer is still on balance unlikely.

Possible replacements:

  • Fallon.
  • Green (a former Home Office Minister under May).
  • Jeremy Hunt.

– – –

David Davis, Brexit Secretary

No change

Davis has topped his back-from-the-dead comeback to the Tory front bench by making himself indispensable to the Prime Minister.

As a former Europe Minister, he knows the run of the ropes.  As a former Maastricht Whip, he is more of an establishment man than one might think.  But as a convinced Brexiteer, he is also well placed to sell the inevitable compromises of any deal to the Leave lobby on the backbenchers.

He has knuckled down to the grinding workload of his new role, is loyal to May, and at the grand age of 68 no longer has leadership ambitions of his own.  He has become the Number One man in the Government.

If there were to be change in his department, it would probably not consist of him leaving it but of someone else joining – perhaps Lord Hill, Britain’s former trade commissioner, who would add insider knowledge to the negotiating position.

– – –

Liam Fox, International Trade Secretary

No change

This judgement comes with just a moment’s hesitation, because of Fox’s absence from the campaigning front line during this election.  He is an old media hand, doesn’t get rattled, and backed May during the leadership election – chairing her membership stage campaign launch in Birmingham.

So his relative quiet is something of a puzzle.  But he has been working hard to create a new department out of scratch, and it would be strange first to set him in motion, only then to move or dismiss him less than a year later.

– – –

Michael Fallon, Defence Secretary

No change or up or sideways or out (full house)

Fallon was delighted to make the Cabinet in the first place, though at nearly 65 he might decide post-election that he has had enough.  He would be the safest choice for the Treasury were May to move Hammond, and offer a free market counterweight to Team May’s interventionist ideas.

Possible replacements:

  • Hunt.
  • Justine Greening.
  • James Brokenshire, were he to follow the specialised route that sometimes takes Northern Ireland Secretaries to Defence.
  • And maybe Rory Stewart (now a senior Minister at DfID, and a former Defence Select Committee Chairman).

– – –

Liz Truss, Justice Secretary

Sideways or out

Is the Justice Secretary a victim of sexism, or the architect of her own troubles?  That’s the question that Andrew Gimson posed on this site after she had run into trouble over the assault on judges by the Daily Mail as “enemies of the people”…and a scathing assault on her by the Lord Chief Justice over the means of giving evidence in rape trials.

She has also come under fire for her decision to increase insurance premiums.  It would be a bold decision indeed to put her in charge at Education, a department that she has previously served on, and about which she has reforming views.  It is perhaps more likely that Truss, one of the few members of the Cabinet who didn’t support May’s leadership candidature from the start, will be shuffled elsewhere or leave government altogether.

Possible replacements

  • Ben Gummer, a protege of Team May, who would bring a One Nation sensibility to the post.
  • Jeremy Wright, the Attorney General, if the Prime Minister concludes that she can’t appoint a fourth non-lawyer in a row to the job.
  • Michael Gove – just, maybe.

– – –

Greg Clark, Business Industry

No change or up or sideways

The bright and personable Clark is the kind of Minister who prospers under any Tory leader.  Since he is shaping the Industrial Strategy, a project close to May’s heart, he will probably stay put.

But he could go to the Treasury – see above.  Or he might just be an emollient replacement for Hunt at Health.

Possible replacements:

  • Hunt.
  • Greg Hands, a bit of a long shot, but previously entitled to attend Cabinet as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and now a trade minister.

– – –

Justine Greening, Education Secretary.

Sideways or out.

Greening has not been noticeably enthused by the flagship policy of her department, new selective schools – though some grammar school supporters say that her scepticism about the project is exaggerated.

She was also left with the horrorshow problem of the school spending formula – one that was not solvable politically without the tranche of extra money that the manifesto has duly found.

Some accuse her of watering down the Gove reforms.  Others say that parts of those reforms – particularly anything to do with testing – were too prescriptive, and unpopular with Tory MPs.

Possible replacements

  • Green (a former Shadow Education Secretary, who as a Kent MP, has grammar schools in his constituency).
  • Clark (another Kent MP).
  • Hunt.
  • Liz Truss (a former Minister in the department with a longstanding interest in schools)
  • Michael Gove – were May to crown rumours of his rehabilitation by actually bringing him back.  Where better to send him than his old department, for which he has a passion?

– – –

Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary.

Up or sideways or out

Hunt has been Health Secretary for six long years, and could decide to quit the Government, on the ground that enough is enough.  Smooth, experienced and an unruffled custodian of his department during challenging times, Hunt could go almost anywhere – including to a great office of state if required.

The Admiral’s son could also move to Defence or to CCHQ as Chairman – were the Party believed to need a businessman to out it back into shape.

Possible replacements:

  • Green.
  • Clark.
  • Greening.
  • Ben Gummer (a former Minister at the department: it would be a big promotion).

– – –

Damian Green, Work and Pensions Secretary.

Up or sideways

As noted above, Green is an old Green ally; an able technocrat; a very experienced media hand; a pre-Cameroon Tory lefty and an arch-remainer whose career, ironically, has been rescued by last summer’s Leave vote.  Green could go up the Treasury or Home Office or sideways to Health or just about anything.

Possible replacements:

  • Hunt.
  • Greening.
  • Gummer.
  • David Gauke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who has made the transition from Team Osborne to the May regime.
  • Karen Bradley (the Culture Secretary is an accountant and self-proclaimed numbers person).

– – –

Sajid Javid, Communities Secretary

No change or out

Javid is unreservedly dedicated to delivering more housing, with a real commitment to inter-generational justice.  He also has a special interest in integration policy.  These are two good reasons for keeping him in place.

None the less, he has been without a mentor since George Osborne left government, has wrestled with Number Ten over housing numbers, and had a torrid time over business rates.  It would not be surprising were he to leave the government.

Possible replacements.

  • Brandon Lewis, the former CLG Minister, who has kept one eye on the department since.
  • Gavin Barwell, the Housing Minister – if he can hold his seat in Croydon Central.
  • Gummer.

Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary

No change or out

The Transport Secretary is at the more experienced end of the Cabinet, and thus looks nearer the end of his period as a member than the start.  But he seems to be enjoying himself at his department, in which he has a real interest.

On balance, therefore, May is likely to leave the campaign manager of the leadership bid where he is.  It would be ruthless to do otherwise.  He is also one of the few Leavers in Cabinet: will she really want to deplete their number – especially if the Tory majority is small.  But you never can tell.

  • Gauke.
  • Barwell.
  • Lewis.
  • Hands.
  • Matt Hancock, another Minister demoted from being able to attend Cabinet.
  • Jane Ellison – a competent, disciplined Minister of State, and probably the leading woman contender to enter Cabinet.

Karen Bradley, Culture Secretary

No change or up.

Bradley is a May loyalist and a Cabinet newcomer. The best course to take would be to let her settle into her newish role.  But the numerate Bradley could also go to Work and Pensions.

Possible replacements

  • Hancock (currently serving at the department).
  • Ellison.
  • Stewart.
  • Gove (just possibly).

Andrea Leadsom, Environment Secretary

No change or out

There is no sign whatsoever that May really wants her former leadership rival in Cabinet, rather than feeling she has had to have her there.

Other than a thoughtful speech to the National Farmers Union, and a recent piece on ConHome, Leadsom has been allowed little political room to breathe.  We can presume that if the Prime Minister returns with a comfortable majority, Leadsom’s place round the Cabinet table will be under threat.

Possible replacements:

  • George Eustice, a stand-out Minister in the department with a thorough grip of the issues.
  • Stewart, a former Defra Minister.

Priti Patel, International Development Secretary

No change

Patel is doing a wonderful job, aided by some skilful political support at SpAd level, of distancing herself from her own department – which finds itself and the 0.7 per cent commitment constantly in the dock from the centre-right press.  This might not be the most noble way of coping with its unpopularity with a big slice of the Tory family, but is is undoubtedly a skilful one.  There is no reason whatsoever for May to to move her.

James Brokenshire, Northern Ireland Secretary

No change

Like Bradley, Brokenshire is another former Minister under May at the Home Office.  The requirements of Brexit would probably keep him in the Northern Ireland even if he had not been there so briefly.  There is just a very small chance that he could go to defence.

Possible replacement

  • Ben Wallace, the Security Minister.

David Lidington, Commons Leader

No change

There would be little point in appointing the popular and experienced Lidington to a post that suits him, only to move or dismiss him within less than year.

Gavin Williamson, Chief Whip

No change

Again, it would be curious to find a new Chief Whip, see him handle Commons Brexit business smoothly – and then subject the Whips Office to yet another upheaval.

Patrick McLoughlin, Party Chairman – and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

Out

I am presuming that the Chairman will want to go out on a high, having helped to deliver the Prime Minister an increased majority.

Possible replacements:

  • Greening.
  • Hunt.
  • Ellison.

David Gauke

No change or up

The Chief Secretary coud go to Work and Pensions for reasons explained previously.

Possible replacement

  • Ellison.
  • Gummer.
  • Hancock.
  • Barwell.
  • And as a very long shot, Damian Hinds, the Employment Minister.

Ben Gummer, Paymaster General

No change or up

The main factor weighing against a promotion is that his peculiar function in May’s Government – a kind of merger of Oliver Letwin and Francis Maude’s responsibilities under Cameron make him hard to move.

Possible replacement:

  • George Freeman, Chair of the Policy Board.

– – –

I am assuming that the Leader of the Lords and the Scottish and Welsh Secretaries stay in place – and on the questioablle assumption that there will be no major departmental restructuring,

154 comments for: The coming Cabinet reshuffle. May’s men and women prepare to move onwards and upwards – Rudd, Green, Clark, Gummer

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.