British Prime Minister Theresa May wrapped up her cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday hoping to give her government a new lease of life, while most of her front bench in place.
May started with the secretary of state posts on Tuesday, where she wanted to introduce younger and more diverse profiles so that “the government is more like the country it serves,” she said.
Secretary of State for International Trade Mark Garnier was the first head to fall on Tuesday, and announced his departure on Twitter, saying he was “very sad to have lost my job”. At the end of 2017, he had been under investigation for asking his secretary to buy sex toys, at a time when accusations of sexual harassment were engulfing Westminster.
The prime minister began making changes on Monday, announcing the new appointments in a drip-drip fashion, but without touching the heavyweights on the front lines of the Brexit negotiations scheduled to resume in January.
May’s plans were thwarted by the refusal of two ministers to leave their posts, during a day deemed “confused” by the British press.
Jeremy Hunt refused to be moved to Business Secretary and instead had his current role as Health Secretary expanded to include the brief of social care.
Education Secretary, Justine Greening, turned down May’s offer of the Work and Pensions portfolio and was forced to quit, with Damian Hinds moving into Education.
Tuesday also began chaotically, with the official Conservative Party Twitter account congratulating Chris Grayling on his appointment as party chairman only for this to be corrected by No.10. Grayling had in fact not been offered the position, which went instead to Brandon Lewis.
The reshuffle was supposed to mark a new beginning for the Prime Minister, whose authority has been strongly contested since the Conservative’s poor showing in June’s elections, when they lost their absolute majority.
But the Prime Minister’s room for maneuver was limited because of the need to maintain the balance between supporters of a hard Brexit and those who want the country to stay as close as possible to the EU.
She achieved this by leaving her front bench largely untouched, with the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Interior, Finance, Defence, Trade and Brexit all seeing no change.
The Prime Minister was positive about the reshuffle, telling the BBC on Tuesday that there has been an influx of “fresh talent.”