British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has moved swiftly to appoint his cabinet as he tries to create unity within a fractured Conservative Party and restore calm after weeks of political and economic chaos.
His team of ministers includes several individuals who have been retained in post, like Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt, as well as the return of experienced old hands and Conservative MPs from the party’s influential right-wing faction.
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Sunak, who became the United Kingdom’s third prime minister in 50 days when he took office on Tuesday, has pledged to “build a government that represents the very best traditions” of the Conservatives.
But the makeup of his cabinet reflects the challenges he will face as he attempts to marshal a party that has been at war with itself in recent months – one that has forced his two predecessors, the scandal-hit Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, from office.
Meanwhile, his promises to serve with “integrity” and ensure there is “professionalism” at every level of government have come under intense scrutiny following his appointment of Suella Braverman as home secretary – six days after she resigned for a security breach.
“The standout name is Braverman … [her appointment] is very controversial,” said Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from London.
“But by and large, this cabinet is broader [than the one installed by Truss] and one of the reasons it is claimed that Braverman got the job back is that Sunak needed to bring the right wing of the Conservative Party in [to the cabinet] and … [that] meant appointing her.”
Continuity at the top
Sunak has by and large opted for continuity in the top ministerial posts.
He has kept Hunt as chancellor following his emergency appointment by Truss in the wake of a disastrous September mini-budget that roiled the markets and ultimately led to her political undoing.
Hunt has since reversed the majority of Truss’s fiscal plans, which Sunak himself warned would lead to significant economic instability when he and Truss contested a Conservative leadership race earlier this year.
The chancellor – who backed Sunak in his unfruitful contest against Truss and during the latest leadership race – is set to lay out his new plans for fixing the UK’s ailing economy on November 17.
Sunak has also kept James Cleverly and Ben Wallace in their respective positions as foreign secretary and defence secretary, ensuring there is continuity in the key global-facing jobs while Russia continues to wage its war in Ukraine.
His most eye-catching appointment among the larger portfolios is undoubtedly Braverman as home secretary, a move that has already proved hugely controversial given the circumstances in which she recently stood down from the same post.
“Opposition parties are already on the case because it is thought that the reason for her forced resignation is that she passed on a confidential document via her private email to an MP in the House of Commons and that breached security regulations,” Al Jazeera’s Simmons said. “So expect trouble over that.”
Braverman, a darling of the Conservative’s right-wing faction, had backed Sunak’s bid to succeed Truss and there has been speculation her appointment is a reward for that support as well as an attempt to unite all factions of the party.
The move also indicates Sunak’s intention to take a hard line on immigration issues, with Braverman a vocal supporter of cracking down on the number of refugees and asylum seekers reaching the UK via the English Channel.
She has said it is her “dream” to see refugees and asylum seekers deported from the UK to Rwanda – a policy plan she pursued while serving as home secretary under Johnson and is expected to press ahead with again now despite vehement opposition to the idea from critics and anticipated legal pushback.
Experience brought in, Mordaunt loses out
Sunak has also looked to add experience to his new cabinet, appointing former Welsh Secretary Simon Hart as chief whip – a position of critical importance after the recent waves of infighting within Conservative ranks.
Seasoned cabinet minister Michael Gove has also been brought back as levelling up secretary, a position he previously held under Johnson.
Meanwhile, a number of key supporters have been handed senior roles, with Steve Barclay appointed as health secretary and Dominic Raab made justice secretary and deputy prime minister.
But Sunak’s challenger for the leadership, Penny Mordaunt, lost out.
She was given no promotion despite speculation she was vying for the foreign secretary role and appears to have paid the price for not conceding defeat to the new PM sooner amid a lack of support from fellow MPs.
Instead, she has been kept in her post as leader of the House of Commons, a relatively minor Cabinet-attending position.
Others have been demoted, resigned or forced out altogether.
Nadhim Zahawi, who was chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster under Truss, has been made a minister without portfolio and chair of the party while Therese Coffey, Truss’ deputy PM and health secretary, has been handed the environment secretary brief.
Several individuals seen as allies of Johnson and Truss, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, Brandon Lewis, Robert Buckland and Kit Malthouse, either quit or were sacked by Sunak.