There won’t be a huge cull of female ministers in Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle – but he should still be careful

Editorial: Whispers about a massive exodus of women should be avoided. But the prime minister does need to demonstrate that he’s bringing the country forwards

Sunday 09 February 2020 17:32 GMT
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Ministers meet in Sunderland last month
Ministers meet in Sunderland last month (Getty)

The joke among Westminster journalists is that Boris Johnson’s imminent cabinet reshuffle gets smaller every time they write about it. With hindsight, it would have been better for the prime minister’s aides to downplay rather than raise expectations. Talk of wide-ranging changes in personnel and a radical shake-up of Whitehall departments has been replaced by speculation about a more modest affair.

What will matter most is not the number of sackings or new nameplates in Whitehall, which can be a costly distraction for both ministers and civil servants. Theresa May’s decision to create the now abolished Department for Exiting the EU in 2016 was a mistake. Brexit negotiations were always going to be run from No 10, and the move owed more to keeping Mr Johnson out of Brexit decisions while he was foreign secretary.

In the reshuffle expected on Thursday, Mr Johnson should appoint the best people for the jobs in hand, and aim to keep them in post for three or four years. With a Commons majority of 80, there should be no need for constant tinkering.

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