Boris Johnson’s UK government reshuffle: Who’s in and who’s out?

The number of women in the Cabinet has fallen, while half of Johnson’s top team went to either Oxford or Cambridge.

Boris and Javid - Reuters
Happier times: Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid were once close allies before a rift emerged between Johnson's senior advisers and Javid's aides [File photo: December 10, 2019/Toby Melville/Reuters]

Sajid Javid quit as the United Kingdom‘s chancellor of the exchequer after Prime Minister Boris Johnson set conditions “any self-respecting minister” would reject, he said, as several senior heads rolled in a dramatic Cabinet reshuffle on Thursday.

The prime minister ordered Javid to fire his closest aides and replace them with advisers chosen by 10 Downing Street if he wanted to remain in his post – conditions he said he was “unable to accept”.

Javid chose to quit instead, and was replaced by his former deputy at the Treasury, Rishi Sunak, in the biggest shock of Johnson’s shake-up of his ministerial team.

Speaking outside his home, Javid told reporters: “I was unable to accept those conditions and I do not believe any self-respecting minister would accept those conditions.”

And in his resignation letter, he told Johnson he believed it was “important as leaders to have trusted teams that reflect the character and integrity that you would wish to be associated with”.

The bombshell – less than a month before the budget is announced – follows tensions between the ex-chancellor and the PM’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings.

In August, Cummings had fired Javid’s aide Sonia Khan – and it appears Number 10 wanted to go further in keeping a closer eye on him.

Downing Street refused to guarantee that next month’s budget would go ahead as scheduled, with a spokesman saying only that “extensive preparations have already been carried out for the budget and they will continue at pace”.


Javid’s departure came after:

– Julian Smith was unceremoniously dumped as Northern Ireland secretary
– Andrea Leadsom was sacked as business secretary
– Theresa Villiers lost her job as environment secretary
– Geoffrey Cox was sacked as attorney general
– Esther McVey lost her job as housing minister

Along with the ministerial exits, the reshuffle – which Downing Street insiders had predicted would be “conventional” before the row with Javid – included promotions for MPs who are highly rated by Number 10.

Alok Sharma was promoted from international development to become the new business secretary, and he will also be minister for the COP26 United Nations climate summit, due to take place in Glasgow in November.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan joins the Cabinet as international development secretary, having previously been a defence minister.

Oliver Dowden has become a full Cabinet member as culture secretary, having previously attended the meetings as paymaster general.


George Eustice was promoted to environment secretary from his previous role in the same department.

Brandon Lewis was appointed as Northern Ireland secretary.

Former Brexit minister Suella Braverman returns to the government as attorney general.

Ex-Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay replaces Sunak as treasury chief secretary.

Amanda Milling was made Conservative Party chairman – a role in which she will attend Cabinet as a minister without portfolio.

Former defence secretary Penny Mordaunt will return to government as paymaster general in the Cabinet office.

Most of the key players, including Home Secretary Priti Patel, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove, retained their positions.

Until Javid’s exit, the most surprising move by the prime minister had been the sacking of Smith just weeks after brokering the deal that restored the power-sharing administration in Northern Ireland.

Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar said Smith was “one of Britain’s finest politicians of our time”.

Speculation about Smith’s position centred on the terms of the Stormont deal, amid Tory concerns it could pave the way for prosecutions of British soldiers.

But allies of the axed minister said it was “absolute crap” to suggest Johnson and Number 10 had not been kept informed of the process and details of the deal.

Today's findings underline how unevenly spread the opportunities are to enter the elites, and this is something Boris Johnson must address.

by Sir Peter Lampl, Sutton Trust

Although female ministers were axed in the reshuffle, Downing Street indicated there would not be a reduction in the number of women around the Cabinet table.

Former culture secretary Baroness Nicky Morgan had already said she was leaving her role, while Leadsom, Villiers and McVey were all sacked. 

Out of 26 ministers attending the meeting of the PM’s top team, just seven are women – down from eight – and there are fewer women in the most senior roles. This equates to women filling 27 percent of Cabinet positions.

Meanwhile, analysis by the Sutton Trust suggested almost two-thirds of the Cabinet (62 percent) attended independent schools – more than twice the proportion of Theresa May’s 2016 cabinet.


The education charity said 31 percent of Johnson’s new Cabinet went to a comprehensive school – up from 27 percent in 2019, while eight percent attended a grammar school.

Half of the Cabinet studied at the universities of Oxford or Cambridge, compared to 27 percent of all Conservative MPs.

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “December’s election led to a seismic shift in the political landscape.

“The falling of ‘the red wall’ means Conservative MPs now represent a much more diverse range of constituencies than before, with constituents from many different socioeconomic backgrounds.

“Yet in terms of educational background, the make-up of Johnson’s cabinet is still over 60 percent from independent schools.

“Today’s findings underline how unevenly spread the opportunities are to enter the elites and this is something Boris Johnson must address.” 

Source: News Agencies