UK Government Reshuffle 2021 - Part Two

23/09/2021

Boris Johnson continued to show no mercy as he shuffled his pack; while the Secretary of State level posts are all wrapped up, he’s now firmed up allies to be appointed to junior posts. What is clear is that this is not a Brexit cabinet; this is a cabinet of Johnson allies, one where he continues to cement his power with those he can depend on (and trust) the most. His appointees will need to make meaningful progress; building homes fit for the future, pushing through tougher legislation on crimes, and protecting the rights of victims. Post-pandemic recovery and capitalising on new markets outside of the EU is now the way forward, and only time will tell how successful these endeavours turn out to be.

John Whittingdale was removed as Media Minister, a point he had held since February 2020. Whittingdale was said to be “sad” to be removed from a role he “loved”. The day before he was sacked, 15 September, he was still undertaking formal government business having made a speech at Royal Television Society’s Cambridge Convention. His appointment had previously attracted criticism from gambling reform advocates due to his previous voting record concerning betting and gaming industry issues. He previously served as Culture Secretary from 2015-2016 before he was sacked by then Prime Minister, Theresa May.

Julia Lopez enters DCMS having previously been a Minister at the Cabinet Office. She previously worked with Matt Warman, the now previous Digital Infrastructure Minister, on a joint review on Digital identities and attributes consultation. It is rumoured that she may take on the work of Whittingdale at a Minister of State level. An MP from the 2017 intake, she has done enough to prove to Johnson she can be a force for good in driving forward government ambitions in the culture and digital space.

Matt Warman did not do enough in his two year tenure as Digital Infrastructure Minister to convince Johnson that keeping him on was a correct decision. His time in DCMS focused heavily on gigabit broadband rollout and building a future-proof network that would see Britain as a world leader. However, a programme of work delivering this ambition has still not commenced, and he was perhaps hamstrung by Johnson’s commitment in the 2019 manifesto to deliver gigabit-capable connectivity to all premises by 2025. Such an overly ambitious pledge was clearly unworkable, yet Warman paid the price for not rising to the task with great enthusiasm. His successor is Chris Philp, formerly of the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office where he held a joint role, in a newly named post – Minister for Digital Economy.

Penny Mordaunt was moved from the Cabinet Office to the Department for International Trade. Mordaunt has served in cabinet in numerous roles, including Defence Secretary in 2019 and Secretary of State for International Development between 2017-2019. Ironically she was removed by Johnson when he won the Conservative leadership contest in July 2019. Once mooted a rising star of the party, she now has fresh responsibilities in assisting the new Secretary of State, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, negotiate tricky trade deals with New Zealand and India, to name but a few. Trade will become an increasingly important department as the months go on and will need to continue the progress made by Trevelyan’s predecessor, Liz Truss.

Amanda Milling was removed as Conservative Party Chairman and moved to the Foreign Office, where she will serve as Minister of State for Asia. Milling was sacked just weeks before the Conservative Party Conference in a move that essentially put the government on a general election war footing. Milling was known to be disappointed that she was removed from her post, but she is, however, still in the Cabinet and will have an important role to play in defending and promoting the UK’s interests in Asia. Key areas of focus will be the way she approaches dialogue with China and working with international partners in countering an emboldening North Korea.

In an ode to highfliers, Kemi Badenoch has been promoted to Minister of State for Regional Growth and Local Government. She has taken on this role while balancing this with her role at the Government Equalities Office as Equalities Minister. Before her parliamentary career she was a director at The Spectator, arguably one of Britain’s most influential right-wing magazines. Badenoch is on the right of the Conservative Party, and her views on transsexual and gay rights have attracted criticism. However, her appointment is a result of her loyalty to Johnson, who has put her in charge of the levelling-up brief and answerable to Michael Gove. She will be tasked with making rapid progress with the cladding crisis and enacting long and lasting change.