Minute by bloody minute, how Boris orchestrated his Cabinet reshuffle

Dominic Raab grimaced but said nothing as a reporter shouted at him: ‘Are you going to have more time to spend on holiday?’

Technically, Mr Raab was entering No10 to learn if he was to be reappointed as Foreign Secretary in the reshuffle.

But he already knew his fate, having come straight from a tense meeting with Boris Johnson in which the Prime Minister rejected his plea to keep his job. The walk up the street was purely for show.

To complete the humiliation, he then had to pose for a formal picture for his new role as Justice Secretary.

He did not manage a smile. By contrast, his successor Liz Truss positively beamed as she strode up Downing Street to be appointed as the Tories’ first female Foreign Secretary.

And Nadine Dorries looked stunned in her own official portrait after being handed the job of Culture Secretary in one of the surprise moves of the reshuffle.

Earlier, Miss Dorries – a one-time rent-a-quote and former reality TV contestant – had stood and gossiped with reporters about the reshuffle, apparently unaware she was to be handed a Cabinet job.

Yesterday’s reshuffle had a long gestation. When Mr Johnson gathered senior aides in Downing Street on Sunday afternoon to finalise his shake-up it was the culmination of months of planning.  

Yesterday’s reshuffle had a long gestation. When Boris Johnson gathered senior aides in Downing Street on Sunday afternoon to finalise his shake-up it was the culmination of months of planning

Yesterday’s reshuffle had a long gestation. When Boris Johnson gathered senior aides in Downing Street on Sunday afternoon to finalise his shake-up it was the culmination of months of planning

Yesterday’s reshuffle had a long gestation. When Boris Johnson gathered senior aides in Downing Street on Sunday afternoon to finalise his shake-up it was the culmination of months of planning

Mr Raab (pictured) was removed as Foreign Secretary in the wake of his disastrous handling of the crisis in Afghanistan

Mr Raab (pictured) was removed as Foreign Secretary in the wake of his disastrous handling of the crisis in Afghanistan

Mr Williamson (pictured right) was sacked as Education Secretary after his calamitous tenure saw chaos in schools during the pandemic, including on exams

Mr Williamson (pictured right) was sacked as Education Secretary after his calamitous tenure saw chaos in schools during the pandemic, including on exams

Dominic Raab (pictured left today) and Gavin Williamson (pictured right on Tuesday) were humiliated last night as they were ousted from their Cabinet jobs in the reshuffle. Mr Raab was removed as Foreign Secretary in the wake of his disastrous handling of the crisis in Afghanistan. Mr Williamson was sacked as Education Secretary after his calamitous tenure saw chaos in schools during the pandemic, including on exams.

No10: It was nothing to do with Carrie… 

Downing Street denied that the Prime Minister’s wife Carrie Johnson had played any role in yesterday’s Cabinet reshuffle.

It came after it was branded the ‘Carrie reshuffle’ by Boris Johnson’s former aide Dominic Cummings. 

Downing Street denied that the Prime Minister’s wife Carrie Johnson (pictured) had played any role in yesterday’s Cabinet reshuffle

Downing Street denied that the Prime Minister’s wife Carrie Johnson (pictured) had played any role in yesterday’s Cabinet reshuffle

Downing Street denied that the Prime Minister’s wife Carrie Johnson (pictured) had played any role in yesterday’s Cabinet reshuffle

But when asked if she had been consulted, a Downing Street spokesman said: ‘No.’ 

She has previously been accused of interfering after figures she was believed to be close to were promoted, such as Sajid Javid being made Health Secretary and John Whittingdale as culture minister.

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The Prime Minister had been frustrated that key parts of his agenda were not being seen to be delivered, but had felt constrained from acting by the demands of the Covid crisis. 

Aides had first prepared to hold the reshuffle in July. 

But the unexpected departure of Matt Hancock as Health Secretary after being filmed kissing an aide made it less urgent and the PM’s enforced self-isolation at the end of the month made it logistically impossible.

Mr Johnson had toyed with the idea of delaying the shake-up until after next month’s Conservative Party conference, but finally decided at the weekend that it made no sense to give a platform to failing ministers who were destined to be sacked.

After a fortnight of speculation, the Westminster rumour mill went into overdrive yesterday morning as Government drivers were put on standby to whisk ministers to Downing Street.

It was finally confirmed at lunchtime when No 10 took the unusual step of denying claims by former top aide Dominic Cummings that the PM had consulted his wife Carrie on who to hire and fire.

The formal reshuffle did not begin until after Prime Minister’s Questions when the PM and senior aides hunkered down in his Commons office to conduct the sackings away from prying eyes.

As nervous MPs clutched their phones and awaited news of their political futures, journalists swarmed to catch a glimpse of the comings and goings.

Amanda Milling was spotted looking miserable after being sacked as Conservative Party co-chairman and a grim-faced Robert Buckland was also seen leaving after being fired as Justice Secretary.

Amanda Milling (pictured on Tuesday) was spotted looking miserable after being sacked as Conservative Party co-chairman

Amanda Milling (pictured on Tuesday) was spotted looking miserable after being sacked as Conservative Party co-chairman

Amanda Milling (pictured on Tuesday) was spotted looking miserable after being sacked as Conservative Party co-chairman

A grim-faced Robert Buckland (pictured on Tuesday) was also seen leaving after being fired as Justice Secretary

A grim-faced Robert Buckland (pictured on Tuesday) was also seen leaving after being fired as Justice Secretary

A grim-faced Robert Buckland (pictured on Tuesday) was also seen leaving after being fired as Justice Secretary

Meanwhile, Miss Truss and Oliver Dowden were having a relaxed lunch with colleagues in the Members’ Dining Room before they were handed new jobs by the PM.

Education brief for the former child refugee 

Nadhim Zahawi, who arrived in Britain as a nine-year-old boy unable to speak English, was promoted to Education Secretary yesterday, replacing Gavin Williamson.

The former health minister was rewarded with a Cabinet role after the successful rollout of vaccines across the UK.

Mr Zahawi, 54, who fled Iraq under Saddam Hussein with his family when he was a child, gave a double-thumbs up as he left No 10 yesterday after accepting his new job.

The MP for Stratford-on-Avon will face a difficult brief at the Department for Education, which has struggled to manage the virus’s impact on schooling during the pandemic and it will be a tough job to win back the trust of parents.

But, as a former schools minister before his promotion to vaccines minister, he has experience of the department. 

He said: ‘From my own experience, I know what a beacon of opportunity this country can be and I want all children, young people and adults to have access to a brilliant education, the right qualifications and opportunities to secure good jobs.

‘That’s both vital for them and also our economy and is more important now than ever before.’

Mary Bousted of the NEU teaching union, said: ‘We hope that Nadhim Zahawi shows a passion and an interest in education and realises the power that valued education professionals have to transform the lives of young people.’

Geoff Barton of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: ‘The Department for Education may now be under new management but the same challenges remain.’

Mr Zahawi was privately-educated at King’s College School in west London. He studied chemical engineering at University College London. 

One of the wealthiest members of Parliament, he set up polling company YouGov. He is said to have a property empire worth around £100million.

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But Gavin Williamson had already been told he would be departing as Education Secretary after a miserable run that saw his approval ratings among Tory activists fall to an incredible minus 53.

He gave a farewell speech to staff in his department before the reshuffle was even underway. 

Eyes are said to have remained dry.

When he was summoned to the Commons, the former chief whip made a brief appeal to the PM to return to his former role, but Mr Johnson stamped on the idea immediately.

Friends said Mr Williamson was philosophical about his brutal removal and believed he might yet have one more comeback in him.

Mr Johnson is said to have been ‘pained’ by his conversation with the blameless Mr Buckland.

One senior Tory MP said his only failing was that he was ‘a middle-aged white man’ in a reshuffle that emphasised diversity.

But this was nothing compared to the bust-up with Mr Raab, who battled for more than half an hour to keep his job.

It is believed Mr Raab insisted that he would not accept a demotion from the role of foreign secretary.

He reminded the PM he had stood in for him when his life was in the balance at the height of the pandemic last year.

And he defended his record on Afghanistan, which has faced intense criticism following his decision to stay on holiday as Kabul fell to the Taliban.

The PM, flanked by his chief of staff Dan Rosenfield and his chief whip Mark Spencer, was said to be sympathetic but unmoved. 

After what one source described as a ‘negotiation’ between the two men, the PM offered to throw in the grand, but largely meaningless, title of Deputy Prime Minister to soften what was otherwise a harsh demotion.

The last time it was used was in 2015 by Nick Clegg – then Liberal Democrat leader – during the 2010-2015 coalition government.

Downing Street insiders said the PM had planned to move Mr Raab to justice for months, describing the former lawyer as a ‘round peg in a round hole’ there.

His fate was sealed not so much by his conduct over Afghanistan as by his toxic falling-out with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, a close personal friend of the PM. 

Mr Raab is said to have felt that he was being wrongly blamed for the government’s failings over the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, one government source reportedly told the Times that Mr Raab had now become the ‘Angela Rayner of the cabinet’.

The joke is a reference to an incident in May when Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer attempted to demote deputy leader Ms Rayner – only for her to emerge with four titles.   

After the sackings, Mr Johnson was smuggled out of Parliament to Downing Street. Ministers were called in to the Cabinet room one-by-one to be handed their roles by him.

They were then taken to the State Dining Rooms to have their official pictures taken in front of a pair of Union flags. 

Meanwhile, Miss Truss (pictured) and Oliver Dowden were having a relaxed lunch with colleagues in the Members’ Dining Room before they were handed new jobs by the PM

Meanwhile, Miss Truss (pictured) and Oliver Dowden were having a relaxed lunch with colleagues in the Members’ Dining Room before they were handed new jobs by the PM

Meanwhile, Miss Truss (pictured) and Oliver Dowden were having a relaxed lunch with colleagues in the Members’ Dining Room before they were handed new jobs by the PM

Downing Street said the reshuffle was designed to create a ‘united’ team and Mr Johnson certainly rewarded loyalty.

Both Miss Truss and Miss Dorries have proved unswervingly loyal to the PM. Michael Gove had made little secret of his desire to move to the Foreign Office, but insiders said the PM had long favoured Miss Truss.

A source said: ‘Michael wanted it, but it was always going to be Liz.’ 

Mr Gove’s official portrait records that, like Mr Raab, he could not muster a smile.

Michael Gove dances off to sort out housing 

Michael Gove has been tasked with delivering on Boris Johnson’s flagship ‘levelling up’ policy as well as solving the housing crisis after being made Communities Secretary

Michael Gove has been tasked with delivering on Boris Johnson’s flagship ‘levelling up’ policy as well as solving the housing crisis after being made Communities Secretary

Michael Gove has been tasked with delivering on Boris Johnson’s flagship ‘levelling up’ policy as well as solving the housing crisis after being made Communities Secretary

Michael Gove has been tasked with delivering on Boris Johnson’s flagship ‘levelling up’ policy as well as solving the housing crisis after being made Communities Secretary.

The long-standing minister was moved sideways from his role at the Cabinet Office, but will retain his existing responsibilities for the Union and elections.

The bulging in-tray will be seen as a confidence vote in Mr Gove, 54, by the PM as he entrusts him to deliver on key tenets of the Conservative manifesto.

He replaces Robert Jenrick, 39, who was sacked after a string of controversies, including a ‘cash for favours’ row last year involving former newspaper tycoon Richard Desmond’s plan to build 1,500 homes on the site of the old Westferry print works in east London.

Mr Gove has a reputation in Westminster as a minister who can get a tough job done, having previously led the education and justice departments.

He was tasked with preparing for a no-deal Brexit in the Cabinet Office when Mr Johnson became PM, despite running against him in the Tory leadership race.

The Prime Minister has championed sweeping planning reforms which have sparked a ferocious backlash among backbenchers. 

And he has described his ‘levelling up’ agenda – which he hopes will spread opportunity across the country – as his ‘great project’.

Mr Gove, who grew up in Aberdeen – and was last month pictured dancing enthusiastically at a nightclub in the city – will continue his work defending the Union, chiefly against calls for a second Scottish referendum.

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