February 2020

Written by:

James Bird

Board Director

10 key things to know about the reshuffle

1. A day of long knives

The easy media narrative is that the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Dominic Cummings is the man to blame for the brutal cull of top names and the reshuffle unexpectedly going off track. Losing a Chancellor who was yet to deliver a Budget Statement is significant and for this to happen owing to personalities not policies is clumsy. But while there is no doubt Mr Cummings played a role in the saga, the buck stops with the Prime Minister.

2. Cabinet discipline restored

There is a wider theme in the brutal sackings and appointments, namely loyalty first. Those removed at some point have crossed Johnson, ether backing his rival Jeremy Hunt in the party leadership contest last year, being a contender against him or speaking out on his Brexit/spending plans. Having seen the destruction of the loose-lipped Cabinet under Theresa May, Johnson has robustly re-imposed collective cabinet responsibility.

3. The next generation

While Boris is not going anywhere soon, the emergence of front runners from the next generation is always important in understanding the dynamics of decisions and influence in government. It’s clear the rapid rise of the youthful Robert Jenrick and Rishi Sunak in each of Boris’ two reshuffles should be watched with interest. How they define their reach within government over the next few months and secure policy wins will help determine their future status.

4. “Not another one”: The tenth housing minister in ten years

Chris Pincher takes up the mantle as the latest incumbent with the housing brief. Many have used this role as a stepping-stone to greater things but effective policy making hasn’t been the beneficiary. Formerly working for Accenture and a Deputy Chief Whip during the turmoil of Theresa May’s administration, he is a numbers man and will need to deliver the number of homes needed to solve the housing crisis. He’s firmly in Boris’ camp having been in his aborted leadership campaign team in 2016. His experience as a whip and in the Foreign Office means he knows how Government works.

5. Housing and Northern Powerhouse lose their places around the Cabinet table

New housing minister Chris Pincher will need to deploy all his political skills in order to compensate for loss of the right to attend Cabinet when his brief is being discussed. The new northern powerhouse minister will also lose the right to attend Cabinet too.

6. Northern presence retained in key roles

Northern MPs Jake Berry and Esther McVey, former housing minister, may be gone but not all is lost for the influence of the north. The top jobs at the MHCLG & Treasury stay with MPs representing the Midlands and the North East while the new northern powerhouse minister Simon Clarke finds his feet in the Whitehall jungle.

7. Climate Change

It was promised that a ‘big hitter’ would be given responsibility for the COP 26 climate change conference in November, with a Minister specifically in charge. The incoming Business and Energy Secretary, Alok Sharma has been appointed to run the flagship conference, so will be a busy man in 2020. His background as International Development Secretary will stand him in good stead for the international aspects of the coordinating role.

8. Fiscal loosening

The shock departure of Sajid Javid will ease the constraints imposed by the fiscal rules laid out in the recent election manifesto. Expect more borrowing and spending to deliver a step change in investment in housing, infrastructure and the net-zero target.

9. Departmental Deck Chairs

Originally there was an expectation that there would be some big structural changes with the abolition and /or merging of department. It may be the case that the dysfunctional disruption of ‘machinery of government’ restructure was judged by older, more experienced hands, to risk having delayed the implementation of key projects. It does mean that, bar the introduction of a Minister for HS2, we can expect a run of departmental stability.

10. Downing Street’s control

With Dominic Cummings achieving his goal of merging the special advisers across Number 10 and Number 11, he has secured a commanding position of control that for now will define the way that the new government operates. How long this tight control stays remains to be seen.

A summary list the Prime Minister’s ‘Cummings and Goings’ can be found below:


• Sajid Javid, Chancellor of the Exchequer
• Andrea Leadsom, Business Secretary
• Theresa Villiers, Environment Secretary
• Nicky Morgan, Culture Secretary
• Geoffrey Cox, Attorney General
• Julian Smith, Northern Ireland Secretary
• Esther McVey, Housing Minister
• Jake Berry, Northern Powerhouse Minister
• Nus Ghani, Transport Minister
• George Freeman, Transport Minister

In or Promoted

• Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer
• Alok Sharma, Business Secretary and Minister for COP 26
• George Eustice, Environment Secretary
• Oliver Dowden, Culture Secretary
• Suella Braverman, Attorney General
• Brandon Lewis, Northern Ireland Secretary
• Christopher Pincher, Housing Minister
• Simon Clarke, Northern Powerhouse Minister
• Paul Scully, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in BEIS & Minister for London
• Andrew Stephenson, Transport Minister
• Kelly Tolhurst, Transport Minister