Reshuffling the pack: analysis from Westminster

What does the latest government reshuffle mean for Westminster and the rural economy? CLA Senior Public Affairs Manager Eleanor Wood explains all in her blog
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The government reshuffle that occurred on Monday, 13 November, has been a long time coming, with rumours of it circulating since the summer. Nobody was particularly surprised to see Suella Braverman sacked as home secretary following her open defiance of Number 10, but I think everyone was caught unawares by the return of former prime minister David Cameron as foreign secretary. This was particularly notable as this government has been notoriously leaky with announcements, and it managed to surprise even Westminster insiders.

This was perhaps the first time we have seen Rishi Sunak play his hand in the year since he has been prime minister. This was a big reshuffle, and much more in the style of how he would like to govern, with the removal of Liz Truss ally Thérèse Coffey and the more moderate Victoria Atkins, who has been promoted to health secretary. Bringing back David Cameron will also add a sense of gravitas to this cabinet, but with the election looming on the horizon, it might still be too little too late.

A rural focus

Regarding what happened in the rural space, Thérèse Coffey resigned (although perhaps with some encouragement from No. 10) as Defra secretary and was replaced by former Health Secretary Steve Barclay. Dr Coffey was sometimes a controversial figure in the role but had managed to continue the roll out of the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) and the development of further schemes, and should therefore be praised for that.

On to the new, Steve Barclay is a well-known figure to the CLA and members of CLA East, having attended branch committee meetings. As MP for North East Cambridgeshire, he is passionate about improving rural communities and has been a previous supporter of the rural powerhouse. Mr Barclay is a pragmatic and sensible MP and unlikely to delay the rollout of the new environmental schemes, and instead look at ways to improve the numbers of those signing up.

Another new face at Defra is the MP for Keighley and Ilkley, Robbie Moore who has replaced Trudy Harrison as a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State. He is another known face to the CLA, who has spoken at our events and participated in the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) inquiry into rural productivity. Coming from a farming background, and a previous Nuffield scholar, he will bring practical experience into the role and we look forward to working closely with him.

There was also movement at the Department for Levelling-up and Local Communities, with Housing Minister Rachael McClean tweeting her frustration at being sacked. The housing minister seems a transient position with Lee Rowley, MP for North East Derbyshire, becoming the 16th holder of the position since 2010. With both the Renters (Reform) Bill and the frustrations felt by so many about the lack of housing available, it would be good for someone to take long term leadership in the role.

Looking ahead

Overall, this reshuffle displayed that there is still some ambition in the Conservative party to win the next election, even if the polls are currently bleak reading. What needs to come next however is some policy direction (and party unity), which could be delivered in the Autumn Statement next week, when the chancellor outlines his spending plans.

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