Why is everyone in Westminster so convinced Boris Johnson is about to have a cabinet reshuffle? | Politics News



One thing is absolutely certain: ministers, advisors, MPs and civil servants are all currently obsessed with the idea a cabinet reshuffle is imminent – possibly as soon as this afternoon. 

My conversations suggest cabinet ministers are thinking about little else.The speculation is at such a pitch and fervor, nothing is getting done in Whitehall.

Scheduled calls with ministers who could be moved are being cancelled. Events later today which cabinet ministers were due to attend have been postponed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street, London, ahead of a COVID-19 media briefing in the Downing Street Briefing Room. Picture date: Tuesday September 14, 2021.
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street, London, ahead of a COVID-19 media briefing in the Downing Street Briefing Room. Picture date: Tuesday September 14, 2021.

There have been several hints and clues which have fuelled the swirling speculation, not least the chief whip’s unusual visit to Downing Street on Sunday and the surprising emptiness of government agenda tomorrow.

But there’s also a wider logic to Boris Johnson holding a reshuffle now.

Firstly, there’s the question of timing. Conservative Party conference is just a few weeks away, and if a reshuffle has not happened before that you could expect the entire event, and the whole period leading up to it, to be dominated by paralysing speculation.

Boris Johnson is also away next week, meaning there’s precious little time where MPs are all in the Commons and available to be summoned in order to be sacked (which normally takes place in his parliamentary office), or promoted, an act that usually happens in 10 Downing Street.

The window for that is closing, so a reshuffle over today and tomorrow makes sense.

A second reason that a reshuffle now would make sense is that the prime minister has problems he would like to solve.

It is a frequent criticism that men some members around the Cabinet table are not of the highest calibre.

I suspect that Boris Johnson will want to use this occasion to try and show that he is capable of putting together a government that includes more talent, a broader range of people, and that deals with some of the lightning rods for criticism, not limited to education secretary Gavin Williamson.

And for the all the talk that the prime minister does not like conflict, it is worth remembering that Boris Johnson has shown himself perfectly willing to take out those who were thought to be powerful and safe.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid arriving in Downing Street, London, ahead of the government's weekly Cabinet meeting. Picture date: Tuesday September 7, 2021.
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Health Secretary Sajid Javid arriving in Downing Street, London, ahead of the government’s weekly Cabinet meeting. Picture date: Tuesday September 7, 2021.

Look at what happened in his last major reshuffle in February 2020. Sajid Javid was seen as the safest person in cabinet as Chancellor, but was gone over a row over special advisers. Talking to ministers and advisors this morning, nobody feels safe.

Now, it’s important to say Number 10 have not confirmed a reshuffle, and there are some counter indicators which could mean it does not in the end happen.

There was a tiny reshuffle last week, when Suella Braverman returned as Attorney General after maternity leave, which necessitated two other changes.

And yesterday, Michael Gove was given a new role within his Cabinet Office brief to sort out supply lines for Christmas.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove speaks to the media during a visit to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Teaching Campus, Glasgow
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Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove speaks to the media during a visit to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Teaching Campus, Glasgow

Had you been thinking of moving Michael Gove, as some people close to Michael Gove have feared, then that seems an odd thing to do.

Is a sign Michael Gove isn’t going to move, a sign that there isn’t gonna be a reshuffle? Not necessarily. Ultimately, all of this is speculation until the prime minister confirms his intentions.

But that speculation is going on across government and Whitehall – don’t expect any ministerial boxes to be filled today.



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