Michael Gove returns to cabinet in Theresa May’s reshuffle

Most positions unchanged as George Osborne calls May ‘dead woman walking’

Anti-Conservative Party and anti-DUP demonstrators in Parliament Square in front of the Houses of Parliament in London on Sunday. Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

Anti-Conservative Party and anti-DUP demonstrators in Parliament Square in front of the Houses of Parliament in London on Sunday. Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

 

Britain’s prime minister, Theresa May, has appointed Damian Green, one of her closest political allies, as her second-in-command, in a cabinet reshuffle that also saw the return of Michael Gove but left most positions unchanged.

The reshuffle followed the resignation of May’s joint chiefs of staff, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, who were viewed by ministers as having become too powerful.

Mr Green, who will have the title first secretary of state, and Ms May have been friends since their university days, when both became involved in politics. A lifelong pro-European, he was an ardent campaigner for Britain to remain in the European Union during last year’s referendum.

Michael Gove, appointed UK secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, leaves Downing Street on Sunday. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters
Michael Gove, appointed UK secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, leaves Downing Street on Sunday. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

Mr Gove, who clashed with Ms May when they were in David Cameron’s cabinet, returns as environment secretary, replacing Andrea Leadsom. Ms Leadsom, who initially challenged Ms May for the party leadership before pulling out in July 2016, becomes the new leader of the Commons.

Demoted

Justice secretary Liz Truss, who won notoriety when she failed to defend judges from attacks in the media last year, has been demoted to chief secretary to the treasury.

Almost all other ministers were confirmed in their current posts, a reflection of the prime minister’s diminished authority after the Conservatives lost their majority in last week’s election. Foreign secretary Boris Johnson on Sunday dismissed newspaper reports that he was preparing to challenge Ms May for the Conservative leadership.

Some staunchly pro-Brexit MPs, including Iain Duncan Smith, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Owen Paterson, insisted Ms May could stay on as prime minister for a full, five-year term.

Former chancellor George Osborne, however, dismissed her as a “dead woman walking”, asserting that it was only a matter of time before she would have to go.

Some Conservative MPs have expressed concern about the prospect of a confidence-and-supply agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), citing the party’s socially conservative positions on LGBT rights and abortion. Defence secretary Michael Fallon said the DUP would support the government on big votes but would have no influence on social issues.

Change of style

Mr Fallon said the prime minister had acknowledged the need for a change of style from the tightly-controlled approach to government she has adopted until now.

“Clearly a minority government requires a different approach. You have already seen some changes of personnel in Downing Street. I welcome that, of course,” he told the BBC.

“We are going to see, I hope, more collective decision-making in the cabinet. I and other senior colleagues have made that clear to her. I think you will also see that she will want to work much more closely with the parliamentary party both in the conduct of business and the development of policy.”

Damian Green, one of Theresa May’s closest political allies, has been appointed first secretary of state. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters
Damian Green, one of Theresa May’s closest political allies, has been appointed first secretary of state. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

The cabinet reshuffle came as a new poll from Survation, the company which predicted the election outcome most accurately, put Labour ahead of the Conservatives. The poll, which put Labour on 45 per cent and the Conservatives on 39 per cent, found that 49 per cent of people believe Ms May should resign, with 38 per cent saying she should remain in the post.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would reach out to critics in the party when he appoints a new shadow cabinet but shadow chancellor John McDonnell sounded a note of caution about changing the current team.

“Our shadow cabinet at the moment was a winning team,” he told ITV’s Peston on Sunday. “It just won effectively votes that no one predicted that we would, so I don’t want to break up that winning team.”