February 2023

Written by:

Samir Dwesar

Samir Dwesar

Account Director

A Government Machinery Rishuffle

The Prime Minister’s reshuffle, which stemmed from Nadhim Zahawi’s sacking as Conservative Party Chairman may not be as big as the reshuffles that we have become accustomed to but, in many ways, it could be significant – and the re-organisation of departments is something Rishi Sunak indicated he wanted to do during the summer leadership election.  

What the changes mean?

A new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNeZ) in particular demonstrates the Government’s commitment to long-term energy supply and Net Zero, allowing two fundamentally important issues to be tied closer together with greater ministerial focus. It also suggests that the Government is taking on board recommendations from Chris Skidmore, who led the recent Net Zero Review, which concluded that the current approach was insufficient.

DESNeZ mirrors the Labour Party’s setup in some ways – Labour has separate Shadow Ministers for business and industrial strategy and climate change and Net Zero.

The new Department for Business and Trade will take the lead on former BEIS briefs, notably the automotive, aerospace and services sectors, market frameworks and trade and opportunities. It has been long felt by many that business and trade under one department would allow for more joined up thinking, so this shouldn’t cause too much controversy.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport simply loses digital reverting back to the old DCMS structure. 

Who’s in?

The new Cabinet appointments are:

  • Grant Shapps becomes Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero
  • Kemi Badenoch becomes Secretary of State for Business and Trade
  • Lucy Frazer as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
  • Michelle Donelan appointed Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology
  • Greg Hands promoted to Chairman of the Conservative Party

Most of the junior appointments have similar responsibilities to their previous briefs but in the new Departments. The notable exception is the new Housing Minister, Rachel Maclean who was previously a backbencher. Her appointment to this high-profile role is her biggest Ministerial job to date, and that she is a long-standing ally to Secretary of State Michael Gove suggests she’s unlikely to diverge from existing policy in this area.

Conservatives look towards the next GE

Mr Hands had been tipped as one of the favourites to take on the role of party chairman. He will play a crucial role in Conservative campaigning as we head towards a general election amidst terrible poll ratings for the party. As a London MP, Mr Hands will also have a fight on his hands in his constituency, where recent polling has suggested the party could be wiped out in the capital.

And added to the drama was the surprise appointment of straight-talking, controversial Red Wall MP Lee Anderson as Deputy Chairman – a move that many commentators say can only end in one way. 

An unsurprising reaction

Reaction from the opposition has been expected. Shadow Climate and Net Zero Secretary, Ed Miliband compared it to “rearranging deckchairs on the sinking Titanic” and the Liberal Democrats dubbed it a £60 million reshuffle due to the costs of re-arranging government departments. 7

The Shadow Business Secretary, Jonathan Reynolds attacked the decision to remove the Industrial Strategy from the Government’s priority list, arguing that it “shows quite clearly that (the Prime Minister) has no plan to drive growth in our fantastic industries.” 

The housing sector will no doubt be disappointed that Lucy Frazer’s successor, Rachel Maclean will be the 15th person to hold the position of Housing Minister since the Conservatives came to power in 2010 – and the fifth in the last eight months. Ms Frazer lasted just 91 days as Housing Minister.  

But one thing stays the same

One change that hasn’t happened is the sacking of Dominic Raab, who is under investigation for bullying. It is understood that the Prime Minister is awaiting the outcome of a report into these allegations before making a decision.

As such, watch this space for possible further changes in the next few weeks.

To find out more about the latest reshuffle and what it may mean for your organisation, please contact Samir Dwesar samir.dwesar@cavendishadvocacy.com.