LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reshuffled his cabinet on Wednesday, demoting Dominic Raab from the post of foreign secretary to those of deputy prime minister and justice secretary.
After months of criticism of several of his top team for missteps and gaffes, Johnson finally started a process some say he wanted to do many weeks earlier, to make the changes he feels he needs to press on with his “levelling up” agenda.
“We know the public also want us to deliver on their priorities, and that’s why the prime minister wants to ensure we have the right team in place for that,” Johnson’s spokesman told reporters.
Dominic Raab, who has faced calls to resign since he went on holiday in Crete as the Taliban advanced on the Afghan capital, Kabul, lost one of the so-called great offices of state in the foreign office to become justice minister.
To soften the blow, Raab was also appointed deputy prime minister, a role he played in all but name when he stepped in to lead government when Johnson was fighting for his life in hospital with COVID last year.
He was also named lord chancellor in the reshuffle at the top of Johnson’s government. Liz Truss was promoted from trade to the foreign office, becoming only the second woman to hold the position in Britain and will also remain minister for women and equalities.
Michael Gove, seen as a key player in the Johnson government, was moved to housing from his position in the cabinet office, a department at the centre of government which drives the implementation of policy.
Raab’s and Gove’s moves followed the sackings of three others: Gavin Williamson as education minister, Robert Buckland as justice minister and Robert Jenrick as the housing minister.
Williamson’s downfall had been widely expected after he was criticised for his handling of school closures and exams during the COVID pandemic and for confusing two black campaigning sportsmen.
Williamson confirmed his departure in a tweet. “It has been a privilege to serve as Education Secretary since 2019,” he wrote. “Despite the challenges of the global pandemic, I’m particularly proud of the transformational reforms I’ve led in Post 16 education: in further education colleges, our Skills agenda, apprenticeships and more.”
Rumours of a reshuffle, and who might be on their way up or on their way out, have been swirling for weeks. Some in his party had suggested the threat of a reshuffle helped ensure Johnson’s plans for a tax rise to tackle a crisis in health and social care got party backing after it was widely criticised for hurting the lowest earners the most.
Robert Jenrick also lost his role as minister for housing, communities and local government, and Robert Buckland stepped aside as justice secretary to make way for Raab.
Critics accused Johnson of choosing the day to overshadow the opposition Labour Party’s planned vote in parliament on the government’s decision to scrap extra support for low-income families.