UK politics & policy updates
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Boris Johnson on Wednesday launched the first big shake up of his senior ministerial team by sacking three cabinet members and removing Dominic Raab from the Foreign Office.
The prime minister used his cabinet reshuffle to oust ministers who had become political liabilities, and to intensify the focus on his domestic reform agenda.
Johnson removed Gavin Williamson as education secretary, Robert Buckland as justice secretary and Robert Jenrick as local government and communities secretary.
Raab switched from foreign secretary to justice secretary following the UK’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, and criticism that he did not have a grip on the crisis. He was replaced at the Foreign Office by Liz Truss, previously international trade secretary.
Johnson also appointed Raab as deputy prime minister, but the changes to his role were seen by Tory MPs as a demotion.
Michael Gove moved from the Cabinet Office to head the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, where he will oversee the government’s “levelling up” agenda to tackle regional inequalities. Gove will also continue with his responsibilities to safeguard the UK by liaising with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Amanda Milling was meanwhile removed as chair of the Conservative party.
Johnson last reconfigured his cabinet in February 2020 after the UK formally exited the EU, but many of his senior ministers have not changed their roles since he became prime minister in July 2019.
Williamson, an early supporter of Johnson’s bid to lead the Tories in 2019, has been widely criticised for his handling of schools and examinations during the coronavirus pandemic.
He tweeted it had been a “privilege” to serve as education secretary and he was “proud” of reforms he had led on post-16 education.
“This programme will create better life opportunities for pupils and students for many years to come,” added Williamson. “I look forward to continuing to support the prime minister and the government.”
Buckland, who also held the title of lord chancellor, confirmed on Twitter that he would leave the government. “It has been an honour to serve in government for the last 7 years, and as the lord chancellor for the last 2,” he said. “I am deeply proud of everything I have achieved.”
A senior Downing Street insider said the long-awaited cabinet reshuffle would “put in place a strong and united team to build back better from the pandemic”.
“The PM will be appointing ministers this afternoon with a focus on uniting and levelling up the whole country,” added the insider.
One ally of Johnson said that the new cabinet would be formed on Wednesday afternoon, with more junior ministerial appointments made on Thursday and Friday.
Downing Street said the prime minister had not consulted his wife on the reshuffle after Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s former chief adviser, branded the shake up a “Carrie reshuffle”.