No change in top Cabinet posts
David Cameron put a stamp of continuity on the first Cabinet of the new Conservative Government, reappointing four of his most senior ministers to the posts they occupied before Thursday's dramatic General Election.
G eorge Osborne remained Chancellor of the Exchequer, after five years in the Treasury during the coalition, and was also officially made the most senior Cabinet minister beneath the Prime Minister with the title First Secretary of State - effectively equivalent to deputy PM.
Theresa May and Philip Hammond were reappointed to the other great offices of state, respectively Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary, while Michael Fallon was confirmed as Defence Secretary.
Mr Osborne arrived at 10 Downing Street shortly after the Prime Minister announced that he was set to announce a number of Cabinet posts, followed in swift succession by the other three ministers.
In a sequence of messages on Twitter as the ministers arrived and departed, Mr Cameron said: "I have re-appointed George Osborne as Chancellor of the Exchequer. He will also be First Secretary of State - the ranking Cabinet Minister.
"I am glad to announce that Theresa May will remain as Home Secretary. Philip Hammond will remain as Foreign Secretary. My final appointment tonight is Michael Fallon as Defence Secretary."
Mr Osborne's reappointment is a mark of the PM's appreciation of his handling of the Treasury throughout the five years of coalition government, and continues a record of continuity in the two top posts of Government since 2010.
The Chancellor's "long-term economic plan" was a centrepiece of the election campaign which delivered Conservatives a 12-seat overall majority in the House of Commons and his plans for £30 billion of "consolidation" to eliminate the deficit will be at the heart of the new Government's agenda.
Meanwhile, Mrs May's reappointment after a full first term at the Home Office is a mark of her success in a post which is often seen as a graveyard of ministerial ambition, because of the high chances that events beyond their control might bring the Home Secretary down.
Mr Hammond and Mr Fallon have had shorter stints in their ministries, the Foreign Secretary moving from the Ministry of Defence to replace William Hague in July last year, when he was replaced as Defence Secretary by Mr Fallon.
Arriving back at the Home Office after her reappointment, Mrs May said: "We have achieved a lot over the last five years in the Home Office. But there is more to do and I am keen to get on and do it."
Asked whether interception of communications would be a priority after Liberal Democrat ministers blocked the so-called "snoopers' charter" in the last Parliament, Mrs May added: "That is certainly going to be a key issue for us. We have made very clear that we want to ensure that our security services and our law enforcement agencies have the capabilities they need to keep us safe and secure."
Mr Hammond said he was "delighted" to be back in the Foreign Office, as he outlined the challenges ahead.
He said: "I'm delighted the Prime Minister has paid me the compliment of inviting me to be Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom.
"I've set out before the election the big challenges I think the Foreign Office has to face over the coming years - t he challenge of extremist, Islamist terrorism; the challenge of a resurgent Russia, ever more aggressive in its dealings with its neighbours; and the challenge of renegotiating our relationship with the European Union.
"These will be the big three challenges for this department over the coming months and years and I look forward to getting back into the office and getting on with those challenges."
During the course of the election, Mr Cameron repeatedly told voters they could secure the stability of having Mr Osborne back at the Treasury by voting Conservative on Thursday. He also praised Mrs May for her part in his team.
And he named both as potential contenders to replace him as Tory leader, when revealing that he intends to stand down at the end of a second term.
Mr Cameron was expected to wait until Monday to appoint he rest of his Cabinet, with more junior jobs being shared out later in the week.
The Prime Minister has a greater scope for patronage among Conservative MPs now that he no longer has to make space in his Cabinet for five Liberal Democrat MPs, as well as a dozen or more in the lower ministerial ranks.
First Secretary of State is a title used only sporadically by prime ministers, usually to mark the special favour given to close allies and colleagues of particular importance to the government.
Previous holders included Mr Hague from 2010-15, Lord Mandelson from 2009-10, John Prescott from 2001-07 and Michael Heseltine from 1995-97. There was no holder of the title between 1970 and 1995 or between 1997 and 2001.
Responding to Mrs May's reappointment, the director of pressure group Liberty Shami Chakrabarti said: "Theresa May was only the second woman Home Secretary, a job she performs with considerable calm.
"However, she has her contradictions - concerned about stop and search but happy with blanket surveillance.
"Ultimately, she will be judged by whether she protects the human rights of everyone in this shakily United Kingdom."