Boris Johnson's cabinet reshuffle: Tory insider, talkRADIO presenter and Stortford resident Nick de Bois' warning
Conservative insider Nick de Bois says Boris Johnson has created a cabinet “very much in his political image” that will take the Conservatives into the next General Election.
The Prime Minister's reshuffle on Wednesday (Sept 15) of the top ministerial jobs comes with a warning from the 62-year-old talkRADIO presenter and pundit who lives in Bishop’s Stortford.
He said the rising stars must deliver: "Regardless of the politics, the fate of the Government will depend on their competence and how they run their departments.”
Nick, who won the Enfield North seat for the Tories in 2010 after a lengthy tussle with Labour, left the House of Commons after a single term but returned as Dominic Raab’s special adviser and chief of staff during his short tenure as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.
His former boss was one of the big names shifted in Wednesday’s game of Westminster musical chairs.
Mr Raab, widely criticised for staying on holiday while the Taliban took control of Afghanistan capital Kabul, was replaced as Foreign Secretary by Liz Truss, promoted from the Department for International Trade. He is now Justice Secretary, replacing Robert Buckland.
The swap has been portrayed by some political commentators as a demotion for Mr Raab, despite his confirmation as Deputy Prime Minister, but Nick disagreed.
“Loyalty is rewarded by Boris Johnson, who was under pressure to dispense with Dominic Raab. Johnson didn’t forget how Raab held the fort when he was gravely ill with Covid in hospital.
“Similarly, Home Secretary Priti Patel was reported to be vulnerable in this reshuffle, but the close political relationship between her and Boris Johnson ensured her continuing to serve in what is probably the toughest job in British politics.”
Loyalty, he said, was key to the new appointments. However, he cautioned: “It is one of the unintended consequences of our system of government that it is entirely possible to have an MP, with limited executive experience, suddenly put in charge of important departments simply because they curry the favour of the Prime Minister of the day.
“In theory, it is entirely possible to have someone running, for example, the departments of transport, health or education, all of which have a huge influence over our daily lives, who may have little more experience of running anything more than a bath prior to their appointment.
“I'm pleased to say that with this major reshuffle of the Prime Minister’s top team he has more expertise than that at his disposal.
"His aim was to pull together a cabinet that can help the Government deliver his levelling up agenda, or, as he would say, to help Britain ‘build back better’. Competence therefore should be at the heart of his choice of cabinet ministers.
“The reality is, however, that he has produced a cabinet that is based in part on competence, in part politics and, intriguingly, loyalty to Boris Johnson.
"Where there was a ministerial failure that was beyond defence, the ministers have paid the ultimate price. Gavin Williamson as Education Secretary gone, Robert Jenrick, the former Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary, is now despatched to the backbenches along with the highly competent but politically dispensable, left-of-centre-leaning Justice Secretary Robert Buckland.”
Nick – who was in the final four short-listed to be Hertford and Stortford’s Conservative candidate in the December 2019 General Election but was beaten to the nomination by uber-Boris fan Julie Marson – said: “Make no mistake, this is a confident Boris Johnson moulding his cabinet of loyalists who share his vision of a global Britain and a Government that speaks to mainstream Britain, not the noisy but relatively small group of metropolitan ‘elite’.
“Note the appointment of Liz Truss, the buccaneering former International Trade Secretary, now at the Foreign Office, Oliver Dowden, the new chairman of the Conservative party, and Nadine Dorries, who will not duck the so-called culture wars.
“The interesting appointments are the reforming Michael Gove, who will take charge of, among other things, housing, with his first task to repair the fractured relationship between the Conservative Government and the South East shires. The Chesham and Amersham by-election defeat did not go unnoticed in No 10.”
Mr Gove, replaced by Treasury minister Steve Barclay as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, also takes responsibility for the Government’s "levelling up" agenda and maintaining the union with Scotland in the face of demands for another independence referendum.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid keep their jobs while vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi is promoted to Education Secretary. Oliver Dowden is now minister without portfolio at the Cabinet Office and co-chair of the Conservative Party.
Mr Johnson is expected to reveal further changes to his team on Thursday (Sept 16).
* Nick de Bois spent lockdown penning his first novel, a political thriller called Fatal Ambition, which contemplates Boris Johnson’s replacement as Prime Minister. It is published by 3rd Step Publishing and costs £8.99. Signed copies are available from https://www.politicos.co.uk/products/fatal-ambition-a-political-novel-by-nick-de-bois. His first book, Confessions of a Recovering MP, reflecting on his single term in parliament, was short-listed for the Political Books Awards Best Parliamentary Memoir 2018.