The composition of Theresa May’s first cabinet is now known. Her decisions in her appointments, which were announced over two days, were ruthless and steely. She dispensed with Cameron loyalists and those who crossed her when she was a Home Secretary. In their places she promoted those who supported her leadership bid, who were prominent Brexit backers, or who loyally served her in the Home Office. May is known to be calculating and doesn’t just make decisions which are popular, but decisions which are right – it should therefore be assumed that the thought process which went into who made her top team was rigorous, and the appointments justified.
That said, there were some surprises in May’s cabinet picks; and not necessarily who she picked, but what cabinet department she decided to gift them. The act of forming one’s first cabinet is incredibly important as to how the media frames one’s ability as Prime Minister, so while May probably went for substance over style, the media will likely overlook this and instead focus on the absurd. I made a few predictions in my last post about May becoming Prime Minister. How did I fare? Not badly, but was off in some respects. Below is the new cabinet of the United Kingdom, in descending order according to my own personal judgement of seniority.
So there were a few surprises. Namely Boris Johnson being appointed as Foreign Secretary, which was a shock to everyone, quite frankly. Diplomatic isn’t a word one doesn’t usually use describing the former Mayor of London, but with a dedicated International Trade Department and a Department for Exiting the EU, both headed by Brexiteers, his role in foreign affairs will be diminished somewhat, leaving him solely to do what he does best – press and media.
Another surprise was Jeremy Hunt staying in Health. There are stories circulating that he was originally sacked – as news organisations did actually announce – but when May couldn’t convince anyone else to take the mess that is the Health Department, she offered him his job back. Whether or not that’s true remains to be seen, but Hunt’s been given a second chance.
There are some new faces to the Cabinet – Theresa May basically promoted everyone she worked closely with in the Home Office too, rewarding loyalty – but notable firings include George Osbourne, Michael Gove, and Nicki Morgan. Priti Patel is promoted to a full Cabinet post as Secretary for International Development, but this is in my opinion not a very senior Cabinet role, and though the budget is big, it faces heavy criticism very regularly. She will have to work hard here.
David Davis, a veteran Tory MP, makes his first Cabinet appearance in charge of the topical and important Department for Exiting the EU, and former Defence Secretary
Theresa May made sure to look after her female cabinet colleague who supporter her and Remain. Rudd, Truss, and Greening all get massive promotions to Home Secretary, Justice Secretary, and Education Secretary respectively. Greening, who recently came out as being in a same-sex relationship, is also given the added responsibility of Minister for Women and Equalities.
On the other hand, Sajid Javid sees a massive demotion from Business Secretary – and Chancellor hopeful – to Communities Secretary. Chris Grayling was also snubbed somewhat, despite managing her successful campaign to become leader. Though technically a promotion from Leader of the House to Transport Secretary, it’s not the high profile or senior position he may have been hoping for, considering he previously served as Justice Secretary.
May has since announced junior Ministers and Under-Secretaries, but I think it’s fair to see the people making the decisions, and being most accountable, are the full Cabinet Secretaries. With the Labour Party in disarray, this may prove to be a strong and successful government, but only time will tell.