• Tuesday, March 21, 2023


Winners and losers from UK government reshuffle

Nadhim Zahawi. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Pramod Thomas

PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson has carried out a major reshuffle of his government, replacing his foreign secretary and giving his former nemesis a key role.

Here are winners and losers from a day of drama in Westminster:

Liz Truss
Truss, 46, had been earmarked for promotion after presiding over a raft of post-Brexit deals with other countries in her role as international trade secretary.

She has now been promoted to foreign secretary, replacing Dominic Raab — and is only the second woman to serve in the plum role in British history after Labour’s Margaret Beckett in 2006-7.

The daughter of a left-wing professor and a nurse, Truss was a member of the centrist Liberal Democrats at university before her ideological shift to the Conservatives, where in 2014 she made an infamous defence of British cheese.

She supported “remain” in the 2016 Brexit vote but later admitted she had changed her mind.

Johnson rewarded her support during his 2019 leadership campaign with the job of trade minister, where she undertook negotiations for post-Brexit agreements with Japan and Australia, among others.

The right-winger now has a bigger stage to pursue Johnson’s vision of a “Global Britain” after Brexit, and has a full diplomatic agenda after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and ahead of the COP26 climate summit in November, in Scotland.

Priti Patel
Patel kept her job as home secretary, or interior minister, despite doubts over her future with record numbers of migrants recently arriving in the country from across the Channel.

Johnson once again remained loyal to her, having previously stood by her as she fended off claims that she had bullied civil servants.

Patel, 49, is the most socially conservative of Johnson’s senior ministers, voting against introducing same-sex marriage, and was a prominent supporter of Brexit during the 2016 referendum.

Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May made Patel her international development secretary in 2016, but fired her the next year after the minister held unrecorded meetings with Israeli leaders during a family holiday.

Michael Gove
A former journalist with a nose for political drama, Gove was a driving force behind Brexit and has been an influential member of Johnson’s cabinet, despite once shattering his dreams of becoming prime minister.

Gove, 54, has been part of a committee of core cabinet ministers during the pandemic.

He has now been tasked with leading the housing and local authorities ministry, likely to be a key vehicle in delivering Johnson’s agenda of “levelling up” disadvantaged regions of Britain.

It is a far cry from June 2016, when Gove shocked the political establishment by withdrawing his support for Johnson at the last minute during the latter’s bid to become prime minister.

Johnson eventually took over after May resigned in 2019.

Dominic Raab

Raab’s demotion to justice secretary caps a fall from grace for the man who was entrusted with leading the country when Johnson was in intensive care in hospital with Covid-19.

The former lawyer, a karate black belt, was acting prime minister for three weeks as Johnson recovered from his brush with death, in the depths of Britain’s first wave of the virus in April 2020.

Johnson saw Raab, 47, as a reliable ally whose unfussy and pragmatic approach made him the right man for a crisis.

But last month, Raab failed initially to cut short a holiday as his staff were frantically engaged with the UK military in trying to get Britons and Afghan staff out of Afghanistan as Kabul fell to the Taliban.

Raab retains the role of deputy prime minister in the reshuffle.

Gavin Williamson

Williamson’s departure as education secretary was the least surprising part of the reshuffle, after he presided over a chaotic and gaffe-prone response to the pandemic.

The 45-year-old former fireplace salesman, who kept a pet tarantula in a glass box on his desk while chief whip, faced a barrage of complaints about his handling of school closures, examination arrangements and university admissions.

His final weeks saw him accused of racism after he mixed up top black sport stars Marcus Rashford and Maro Itoje during a video conference.

Williamson’s replacement at the education ministry is the Iraqi-born Nadhim Zahawi, 54, who has been overseeing the government’s campaign to inoculate Britain against Covid-19.


Eastern Eye

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