Boris Johnson wields axe as he forms Cabinet to meet ‘no ifs or buts’ Brexit vow
The new Prime Minister has culled several senior ministers as he firmly put his stamp on the Government.
Boris Johnson has installed Brexiteers in key Cabinet posts as he moved swiftly to carry out a brutal cull of Theresa May’s senior ministers.
Within hours of Mr Johnson entering No 10, more than half of Mrs May’s top team had quit or been sacked as the new Prime Minister ruthlessly wielded the axe.
In a final dramatic move on Wednesday, arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg – the leader of the European Research Group which proved such a thorn in the side of Mrs May – entered the Government as Leader of the Commons.
Earlier, Dominic Raab, who quit the Cabinet over Mrs May’s Brexit deal, returned as Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State, making him Mr Johnson’s de facto deputy.
Priti Patel, another ardent Brexiteer and Thatcherite who has previously advocated the return of capital punishment, was made Home Secretary.
And Michael Gove – who spearheaded the Vote Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum with Mr Johnson but then scuppered his subsequent leadership bid – became Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in the Cabinet Office.
Entering No 10 for the first time after his audience with the Queen, Mr Johnson promised to give the country “the leadership it deserves” while vowing to meet the October 31 deadline for leaving the EU – “no ifs or buts”.
On a day of high drama at Westminster, Mr Johnson’s defeated leadership rival Jeremy Hunt was the most high profile casualty after he refused to accept a demotion from the Foreign Office.
Sajid Javid, the home secretary who also ran against Mr Johnson, was given the key post of Chancellor, meaning the holders of the three great offices of state apart from PM are the children of immigrants.
But the reshuffle was marked by the return to the Cabinet of Brexiteers Andrea Leadsom at Business and Theresa Villiers at Environment, and promotion for Liz Truss at international trade.
Stephen Barclay, another prominent Brexiteer, retains the key post of Brexit Secretary.
The appointments were to some extent offset by promotions for former Remainers such as Rob Buckland, who becomes Justice Secretary, while Nicky Morgan returns to the Cabinet as Culture Secretary.
Ben Wallace, another former Remainer who nevertheless ran Mr Johnson’s previous leadership bid, was made Defence Secretary.
However the danger for Mr Johnson is that he will now face a raft of disgruntled former minsters, who could make life extremely difficult for him in the Commons.
The new Prime Minister entered No 10 with a slender majority for the Tories and their DUP allies of just two, which could come down to one if the Conservatives lose the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election next week.
Among the first to be sacked were Penny Mordaunt and Liam Fox, both prominent backers of Mr Hunt, who lost their jobs despite their record as committed Brexiteers.
Before Mr Johnson even took office, Philip Hammond quit as chancellor, David Gauke resigned as justice secretary and Rory Stewart left his post as international development secretary.
David Lidington, Mrs May’s de facto deputy prime minister, left office at the same time as his boss while Chris Grayling resigned as transport secretary.
Earlier, in another potentially controversial move, Mr Johnson brought in the abrasive Vote Leave mastermind Dominic Cummings in an advisory role.
His premiership began with a wide-ranging speech in Downing Street shortly after being asked to form a Government by the Queen.
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) July 24, 2019
Watched by girlfriend Carrie Symonds, he promised he would “change this country for the better” and vowed to prove the Brexit doubters wrong.
“I am standing before you today to tell you, the British people, that those critics are wrong – the doubters, the doomsters, the gloomsters are going to get it wrong again,” he said.
“We are going to fulfil the repeated promises of Parliament to the people and come out of the EU on October 31, no ifs or buts.
“I have every confidence that in 99 days’ time we will have cracked it.”
He also promised action to fix the crisis in social care, make the streets safe through the recruitment of 20,000 more police officers, and to improve the NHS.
He said: “I will take personal responsibility for the change I want to see. Never mind the backstop, the buck stops here.”
Earlier his progress to the Palace was briefly disrupted as Greenpeace protesters tried to block his car.
Meanwhile, after taking Prime Minister’s Questions for the final time, Mrs May used her farewell address in Downing Street to urge her successor to secure a Brexit deal.
She said the “immediate priority” was “to complete our exit from the European Union in a way that works for the whole United Kingdom”.