Johnson to tell new Tory MPs they must repay public’s trust
Boris Johnson will tell the next generation of more than 100 new Tory MPs that they have a responsibility to change the party for good, as he sets out plans for a first vote on his Brexit bill before the festive season.
With just a week until Christmas, the UK prime minister intends to accelerate plans for his Brexit bill, carry out a minor cabinet reshuffle and present a Queen’s speech, before shifting his focus to reshaping Whitehall in the new year.
He will begin by telling his new Tory recruits, who mostly represent northern and Midlands seats, they must help him deliver for the voters in their areas.
A No 10 source said: “The seismic events on Thursday returned Conservative MPs in Bolsover, in Blyth and in Bishop Auckland to name a few. This election and the new generation of MPs that have resulted from Labour towns turning blue will help change our politics for the better.
“The PM has been very clear that we have a responsibility to deliver a better future for our country and that we must repay the public’s trust by getting Brexit done.”
After MPs are sworn in on Tuesday and Wednesday, there will be a Queen’s speech on Thursday and then Johnson will ask parliament almost immediately to vote on his EU withdrawal agreement bill, presenting Labour with a dilemma about how to respond.
Much of the Queen’s speech, due to be brought forward on Thursday, will repeat what was in Johnson’s previous programme for government, such as tougher sentencing laws. There will also be proposals on improving rail services, better protection for renters, and stopping local authorities boycotting Israeli products.
The centrepiece will be a new bill to enshrine an increase in NHS spending to the tune of £33.9bn a year by 2023-24 – or of £20.5bn in real terms.
Johnson is only planning a small cabinet reshuffle on Monday to replace vacant posts, including Alun Cairns as Welsh secretary, who was forced to resign during the campaign, Nicky Morgan as culture secretary who stood down, and Zac Goldsmith as environment minister, who lost his seat.
He is expected to do a much more dramatic reshuffle early next year after the UK has left the EU at the end of January and the government has completed a budget.
Government sources confirmed he is preparing a huge shake-up of Whitehall, which would reverse many of Theresa May’s changes to the machinery of government, including:
• Abolishing the Department for International Development (DfID) and merging its aid functions into the Foreign Office, which has long been his ambition.
• Shaking up the Brexit functions of government by scrapping the Department for Exiting the EU and putting it into the Cabinet Office, as well as merging the Department for International Trade with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
• Splitting energy and climate change from the business department again.
Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s key adviser, has previously called for a revolution in Whitehall and an end to the Kafka-esque influence of senior mandarins. Reports over the weekend indicated Johnson was considering a change to the the civil service’s hire-and-fire rules, one of Cummings’ longstanding anathemas.
Several Tory figures on Sunday urged caution over the merging of the Foreign Office and DfID. Alistair Burt, a former foreign office and development minister, told a conference in Doha: “My advice would be not to merge DfID and the FCO. DfID as a standalone department has given the UK an outstanding reputation. It runs very well. It has learned very well over the years the rules about how to handle its aid budget. It is conscious of the risk presented in delivering such a large aid budget. But its thought leadership and the individuals that come from that department has been done well.”
He added: “It is perfectly legitimate to look at the institutions, but if there is to be a merger the government has got to set out why, what can be achieved and what can be done better by merging the two.”
Burt said he did not think the size of the overseas aid budget was under challenge, and that the issue had not come up on the election doorstep.
Andrew Mitchell, a former development secretary, added: “DfID is the most effective and respected engine of development anywhere in the world, and a huge soft power asset for Britain.
“Any machinery of government changes in Whitehall should obviously respect Britain’s international development in the poorest and most unstable parts of the world. Tackling insecurity and building prosperity directly affects our wellbeing in the UK. British leadership in this area is a core part of global Britain.”