Theresa May considers Brexit role for Boris Johnson in cabinet reshuffle
Theresa May is preparing a new year reshuffle that could see a number of cabinet figures losing their positions in an attempt to refresh the Conservative front bench.
The prime minister is said to be considering offering the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson a move to a Brexit delivery role based in another department, but he is likely to resist such a move.
May’s decision to shake up her team comes after fierce disagreements within Downing Street about how sensible such a move would be.
Some of those around the prime minister, including her former chief whip, Gavin Williamson, have urged caution because of the ramifications of placing sacked ministers on the backbenches. Others could also feel aggrieved at being overlooked.
But May’s chief of staff, Gavin Barwell, has received the backing of Williamson’s successor, Julian Smith, about the benefits of promoting younger MPs.
Rumours circulating in Westminster include the idea of Justine Greening being moved out of education, with one source suggesting that she had sided too strongly with the trade unions instead of embracing Tory reforms.
The Sunday Times suggested that Andrea Leadsom could be sacked as leader of the House of Commons, and it also named Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, who ran May’s leadership bid.
Greg Clark is liked by Downing Street but has not always impressed as business secretary and could also be in line for a move to another department.
Patrick McLoughlin is expected to be removed as party chair, with the immigration minister, Brandon Lewis, likely to be named as his successor.
May will also have to replace her ally Damian Green at the Cabinet Office after he was forced to resign for failing to be honest about pornography found on his work computer. The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has been suggested as a replacement, although perhaps without the title of first secretary of state.
Those who could gain promotions into the cabinet include Dominic Raab and Damian Hinds, and May could also be looking to promote Amber Rudd – as foreign secretary if Johnson does step aside – and Karen Bradley.
Other female ministers who may be in line for promotion include Anne Milton, Claire Perry, Sarah Newton, Margot James and Harriett Baldwin.
Reports suggested the chancellor, Philip Hammond, was safe, although there could be rumblings of discontent among Brexiters if May tries to move Johnson without a change at the Treasury.
Previous moves have been overshadowed by the desire to maintain a balance among remainer and pro-leave MPs, but some have called on May to stop worrying about the issue.
Chris Wilkins, who was May’s director of strategy until the summer, said a reshuffle was important to show her current “position of strength”.
“It has two purposes: to show the country the depth of talent there is in the Conservative party and to show the party is united and is a broad church that welcomes all views and opinions,” he said.
“We need to stop asking ourselves where people voted on Brexit and just look for the best person for the job.”