PM turns attention to shake-up of junior posts after cautious Cabinet reshuffle

Prime Minister Theresa May was under pressure from Tory MPs to show more political bite in a shake-up of junior Government posts after a cautious Cabinet reshuffle was seen to be blighted by blunders.

The PM was thwarted in a planned bid to reshape her top team as education secretary Justine Greening quit rather than switch to the Work and Pensions portfolio, and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was reported to have dug in after turning down the role of Business Secretary.

As Mrs May turned her attention to junior ministerial roles on Tuesday, she faced calls to be more courageous in bringing about change and diversity to refresh the look of the Government.

After a day of little movement in the top ranks, and many social media mistakes, veteran Tory grandee Sir Nicholas Soames called for a "major improvement" as the reshuffle continues.

Former Tory chairman Grant Shapps, who was accused of trying to oust Mrs May after last June's disastrous election for the Conservatives, told BBC Newsnight: "Clearly, to be blunt, it wasn't a brilliantly executed performance with the reshuffle today."

As the new Cabinet meets on Tuesday for the first time, few faces are different as the "big four" of Chancellor Philip Hammond, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Brexit Secretary David Davis all remain in place.

And so too do Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, Business Secretary Greg Clark and Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom, despite widespread speculation that Mrs May would demote them.

Ms Greening, who could now become a backbench Brexit thorn in the Prime Minister's side, was succeeded as Education Secretary by Damian Hinds.

The job Ms Greening turned down, Work and Pensions Secretary, was given instead to Esther McVey, who triggered controversy when she was a junior minister in the department under David Cameron.

The big winner of the shake-up was former Justice Secretary David Lidington, who replaced Damian Green as Minister for the Cabinet Office, but was not awarded the title of First Secretary of State enjoyed by his predecessor.

However, Mr Lidington will fill in for Mrs May at Prime Minister's Questions and take on some of the responsibilities for chairing influential Cabinet committees, including some relating to Brexit.

Mr Lidington was also named Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, replacing Sir Patrick McLoughlin, who was sacked as Conservative chairman following criticism of his role in the party's poor performance in last year's snap election.

Brandon Lewis was named Tory party chairman amid farcical scenes, which saw the Conservatives' official Twitter account incorrectly declare that the job had gone to Mr Grayling.

And in an embarrassing twist to a reshuffle beset with social media mistakes, Mr Hunt, who was kept on as Health Secretary with an extended social care role, was forced to explain why he had "liked" a tweet stating Ms Greening had left the Government.

Former chancellor George Osborne praised Ms Greening's abilities as he branded the reshuffle "unusual".

Ex-Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke took over the roles of Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary vacated by Mr Lidington.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire resigned from the Cabinet on grounds of ill health, weeks before major surgery for a lesion on his right lung.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Ex-Culture Secretary Karen Bradley was moved to the politically sensitive Northern Ireland role vacated by Mr Brokenshire.

Digital minister Matt Hancock took over from his old boss as Culture Secretary.

Ms Rudd is taking over the role of Minister for Women and Equalities previously held by Ms Greening, Downing Street sources said.

Read Full Story