Belfast Telegraph

PM vows to work with 'talent' from across Tory party as Gove makes shock return

Theresa May has pledged to work with "talent" from across the Conservative Party as she brought back former justice secretary Michael Gove in a shock return to the Government ranks.

Less than a year after sacking him, the Prime Minister said that Mr Gove would be the new Environment Secretary as she carried out a limited reshuffle of her top team.

The appointment will be seen as an attempt to shore up her position after last week's calamitous General Election result saw her Commons majority wiped out.

In other moves, she promoted Damian Green, one of her closest Cabinet allies, to First Minister of State - a title associated in the past with the role of deputy prime minister.

But in what was being seen as a sign of her weakness nearly all the rest of the Cabinet remained in their current posts.

Speaking to reporters in No 10, Mrs May said: "What I've done today is seen people from across the party accepting the invitation to be in my Cabinet and crucially I have brought in talent from across the whole of the Conservative Party.

"I said during the election campaign that if re-elected I would intend to serve a full term. But what I'm doing now is actually getting on with the immediate job. But I think that's what's important, I think that's what the public would expect."

Mr Gove, who clashed bitterly with Mrs May over tackling extremism when they were in government under David Cameron, said that he had been taken by surprise when the invitation came through to visit No 10.

"I genuinely didn't expect this role," he told Sky News.

"I am delighted to be part of the Government. I am delighted to be able to support Theresa May to ensure that we have a Government capable of delivering on the people's wishes."

Mrs May was keen to give the impression of business as usual, saying she would be chairing a meeting of her new Cabinet on Monday before travelling to France on Tuesday for talks with President Emmanuel Macron.

Before then however she will also face Conservative MPs for the first time since her humiliation at the ballot box when she addresses the backbench 1922 Committee on Monday evening.

Former chancellor George Osborne said she was "dead woman walking" and could be out of Downing Street in a matter of days.

Other senior Tories - including the influential chairman of the '22, Graham Brady - said MPs would rally round, insisting there was no appetite for a damaging leadership contest which risked plunging them into a fresh general election.

However Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon disclosed that senior ministers had made clear to her that she would have to change the way she operated in the light of the election result.

"We are going to see, I hope, more collective decision-making in the Cabinet. I and other senior colleagues have made that clear to her," he told BBC's The Andrew Marr Show.

The Prime Minister has still to secure an agreement with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionists (DUP) on a deal to prop up her minority Government.

DUP leader Arlene Foster is due for talks in Downing Street on Tuesday with a view to finalising the arrangements but Mr Osborne warned the Prime Minister would have to soften her stance on Brexit if she wanted the backing of the DUP's 10 MPs in the Commons.

While the party campaigned for Leave in last year's referendum, he said they could not accept her position that "no deal is better than a bad deal" as they needed an agreement to ensure there was no return to a "hard border" with the Republic.

"Theresa May's central claim which is no deal is better than a bad deal now becomes undeliverable because the DUP will never allow no deal," he told The Andrew Marr Show.

Mrs May is already facing pressure from Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Conservatives in Scotland - where, in contrast to England, the party gained seats - to adopt a more flexible approach to the Brexit process.

Chancellor Philip Hammond was also reported to have told Mrs May that she needed to take a "jobs first" approach to Brexit when he was reappointed on Friday, in an intervention seen as a coded attack on her focus on immigration.

Sir Michael played down suggestions they were rethinking their approach to Brexit but stressed the importance of consulting businesses, amid concerns within the party that they had largely been ignored during the election campaign.

"We want to work with business on this. It is very, very important that we are careful about the existing trade we do with Europe, about access to the single market in whatever new arrangement that we come to," he said.

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