Boris Johnson has carried out a massive cabinet clear-out as he set to working building a government dominated by Brexit loyalists.
Within hours of the new prime minister taking over from Theresa May, 13 full cabinet ministers and four others who attended cabinet were sacked or resigned from the government in a bloodbath which far outstripped the 1962 Night of the Long Knives
The incoming prime minister installed Brexit true believers Priti Patel as home secretary and Dominic Raab as foreign secretary and de facto deputy prime minister. Stephen Barclay remained as Brexit secretary, Liz Truss became international trade secretary and Andrea Leadsom business secretary while Theresa Villiers returned to government as environment secretary.
Michael Gove, who was a Vote Leave figurehead alongside Mr Johnson in the 2016 referendum campaign but famously sabotaged his later campaign for the leadership, became Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, where he will take responsibility for leading preparations for a possible no-deal Brexit in October.
New chancellor of the exchequer Sajid Javid was the only holder of a great office of state to have backed Remain in the referendum. He was also the first Muslim to lead the Treasury. Former Remainer Matt Hancock stayed on as health secretary and Nicky Morgan – who backed Remain in the referendum but was later an author of the Malthouse Compromise attempt to solve the Irish backstop problem – was appointed culture secretary.
Less than three months after being sacked as defence secretary for leaking secrets, Gavin Williamson returned to the cabinet as education secretary following his key role in Mr Johnson’s leadership bid.
Jeremy Hunt, Mr Johnson’s rival in the Tory leadership contest, walked out of the government after being offered a demotion from foreign secretary. He refused to take the defence secretary post of Penny Mordaunt, who was sacked after less than three months in the role.
Instead, one of Mr Johnson’s oldest and closest parliamentary allies, Ben Wallace – head of his abortive 2016 campaign for the leadership – was eventually appointed defence secretary in her place.
There was a clear-out of many of Ms May’s old guard, with Liam Fox, the international trade secretary and Greg Clark, the business secretary, all leaving their roles, along with Damian Hinds, the education secretary, and James Brokenshire, the housing and communities secretary.
David Mundell, the Scotland secretary, and Karen Bradley, the Northern Ireland secretary, were also sacked by Mr Johnson, as were Jeremy Wright, the culture secretary, Mel Stride, the Commons leader, and Caroline Nokes, the immigration minister.
Sources said Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, had resigned.
Four other ministers – Philip Hammond, the chancellor, David Lidington, the deputy prime minister, David Gauke, the justice secretary, and Rory Stewart, the international development – quit earlier on Wednesday after saying they would not serve under Mr Johnson.
Julian Smith, the chief whip, was replaced earlier in the week by Mark Spencer.
Mr Hunt wrote on Twitter: “I would have been honoured to carry on my work at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office but understand the need for a new PM to choose his team. [Boris Johnson] kindly offered me another role but after 9 years in cabinet and over 300 cabinet meetings now is the time to return to [the] backbenches from where [the] PM will have my full support.”
Ms Mordaunt, who backed Leave in the 2016 referendum, had been widely expected to continue in Mr Johnson’s top team but announced that she would be leaving her role.
She tweeted: “I’m heading to the backbenches from where the PM will have my full support, as will my successors.
“Thank you to everyone who’s helped me get things done, especially our Armed Forces and civilians in defence for the last 85 days. We achieved much.”
Mr Fox, who has served as international trade secretary since Theresa May took office in 2016, wrote on Twitter: “I look forward to supporting Boris Johnson and the government from the backbenches.”
Labour Party chair Ian Lavery said: “Boris Johnson’s first act as Prime Minister has been to appoint a cabinet of hardline conservatives who will only represent the privileged few.
“A chancellor who’s consistently called for more tax cuts for big corporations, home and education secretaries who were sacked for breaches of national security and a foreign secretary who doesn’t know the importance of our ports.
“This out-of-touch cabinet pushed for nine years of damaging austerity, while demanding tax cuts for the super-rich and big corporations.
“We need a general election and a Labour government that will bring real change for the many, not the privileged few, which Johnson and his cabinet represent.”
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