The reshuffle of Boris Johnson’s cabinet this week had been rumoured to happen for a while. Westminster insiders have been speculating since early September that a reshuffle was imminent. It appears that the prime minister wants this shake-up to be seen as a fresh start for his government and the start of rebuilding his legislative agenda now that the pandemic is easing.
The headline sackings of Gavin Williamson (Education), Robert Buckland (Justice), and Robert Jenrick (Housing) came first on Wednesday afternoon. Jenrick being removed from the Ministry of Communities, Housing and Local Government (MCHLG) was a surprise to many commentators, but there have been continued rumblings of disapproval from backbench MPs regarding the new planning proposals.
There will certainly be a shake-up of the proposed planning changes by his replacement, Michael Gove, who is the new secretary of state for MCHLG. Gove has a reputation of being a heavy-weight reformer at all of the departments he’s been in charge of, with the Environment Land Management Schemes a firm example. Gove is now in charge of levelling up, which could be a real opportunity to close the productivity gap in rural areas. He retains his responsibilities for the Scotland, England and Wales Union and elections.
Elsewhere other big departmental moves saw Liz Truss appointed as foreign secretary with Anne-Marie Trevelyan replacing her at the Department for International Trade. The Department for Culture, Media and Support has also seen radical change in its ministerial team. Nadine Dorries is now the secretary of state for the department, and Julia Lopez has been promoted to digital minister. The CLA will be working with this new-look department on rural connectivity.
Defra remains largely untouched, with Secretary of State George Eustice remaining in post. Farming Minister Victoria Prentis returned with a title promotion. Jo Churchill, MP for Bury St Edmunds, has joined the Defra ranks but her responsibilities are as yet unclear. There is some question about where this leaves Environment Minister Rebecca Pow, who is yet to be reconfirmed. Early indications suggest that Jo Churchill will be boosting the number of Defra ministers, which can only be welcomed.
What this reshuffle means in the long term is unclear, but it is clear that this is a government eager to get restarted after the last 18 months.