Boris Johnson prepares to take the reins of power
Brexiteer Priti Patel set for cabinet return as the new Tory leader shapes his top team.
Boris Johnson is preparing to enter Downing Street for the first time as prime minister, as he takes on the challenge of delivering Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.
The new Tory leader will take over the reins of power after Theresa May leaves No 10 for the final time on Wednesday to formally tender her resignation to the Queen.
But even before his summons to the Palace to form a government following his resounding victory in the Tory leadership race, Mr Johnson was beginning to shape his top team.
It will include a recall to the cabinet for Priti Patel, an ardent Brexiteer who was forced by Mrs May to resign as international development secretary over unauthorised contacts with Israeli officials.
The Times reported that she was in line for the post of home secretary in the new administration.
Allies said Mr Johnson was determined to create a “cabinet for modern Britain” with a record number of ethnic minority ministers and more women attending in their own right.
It is likely to mean a promotion for the Indian-born Employment Minister Alok Sharma, who is expected to take his place around the top table.
Unlike Ms Patel, he voted Remain in the 2016 referendum but was quick to declare his support for Mr Johnson when he threw his hat into ring following Mrs May’s decision to resign.
A source close to the Tory leader said: “Boris will build a cabinet showcasing all the talents within the party that truly reflect modern Britain.”
A number of vacancies have opened up with the announcements by Chancellor Philip Hammond, Justice Secretary David Gauke and International Development Secretary Rory Stewart that they intend to resign before Mr Johnson take office.
All three strongly oppose a no-deal Brexit and say they cannot support his commitment to take Britain out of the EU by the deadline of October 31 “do or die”.
Another who may be on his way out is the Business Secretary Greg Clark, another opponent of a no-deal break.
However Mr Johnson is likely to be faced by a gaggle of Brexiteer ministers who resigned from Mrs May’s government now jostling to get back in – including Dominic Raab, Esther McVey and Andrea Leadsom.
He is also reported to be grappling over what to do with his defeated rival for the Tory leadership, Jeremy Hunt – who was said to be resisting attempts to demote him from foreign secretary.
Meanwhile Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Treasury Chief Secretary Liz Truss were being touted as possible replacements for the key post of chancellor.
His appointments will be closely studied at Westminster to see if they tilt the cabinet in a more pro-Brexit direction.
Mr Johnson has said he wants ministers who are prepared if necessary to leave the EU without a deal with Brussels.
But with a slender Commons majority for the Tories and their DUP allies of just two, he cannot afford for his government to be too narrowly based.
Mr Hammond and Mr Gauke have already warned they are prepared to join other pro-EU Tories in seeking to block a no-deal Brexit.
His first confirmed appointment to the key post of chief whip – Mark Spencer who voted Remain in the referendum, but has since committed to leaving the EU – was broadly seen as a conciliatory move.
Among the more junior ministerial ranks, he was said to be looking to bring on rising talent, with promotions expected for Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak, Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden and Treasury Minister Robert Jenrick.
There is also expected to be a return to government for Tracey Crouch who quit last year as sports minister after clashing with the Treasury over delays to a crackdown on fixed-odds betting machines.
However, formal announcements are not expected until he after he leaves the Palace following his audience with the Queen inviting him to form a government and makes the short journey by car to Downing Street.
Before that, Mrs May will take Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons for a final time.
She will then make a short valedictory statement outside No 10 before leaving for the last time to tender her resignation to the monarch.
On entering Downing Street, Mr Johnson will also make an address to the nation – setting out his optimistic vision for the future for a post-Brexit UK.