Summing up after Priti Patel’s resignation yesterday, our editor offered this parting thought:
“It will be best for the Government and Prime Minister if Patel’s replacement, if not actually a Leave supporter, at least shares her enthusiasm for the possibilities that Brexit offers to Britain. The obvious replacement is Penny Mordaunt; but many obvious things in politics don’t happen.”
Certainly after Gavin Williamson’s left-field promotion to Defence Secretary last week the post of International Development Secretary could have been wide open. But this time, at least, our prediction was on: Mordaunt is taking Patel’s place in Cabinet.
This appointment covers several angles, not least because it maintains the balance of the Cabinet both in terms of gender and of attitudes towards Brexit. Given that David Cameron’s payroll vote broke three-to-one for Remain any departure by a pro-Leave minister leaves Theresa May fishing in a narrower pool of replacements, so it must have been a welcome respite that so clean a replacement presented itself.
But that isn’t to say Mordaunt has been, as some commentators suggested of Patel, somehow “over-promoted” to fill a Brexiteer quota. She has formerly worked as an aid worker, and has plenty of experience in the interconnected worlds of the Foreign Office, Ministry of Defence, and the Department for International Development.
Finally, one of the key functions of any anticipated reshuffle by the Prime Minister is to bring forward new talent from the 2010 and 2015 intakes to help the Party achieve the very difficult task of renewing itself whilst in office. Mordaunt’s elevation is a step in that direction – but even if no more ministers fall, a full reshuffle is still badly needed in the New Year.