British PM Theresa May continues shake up of ministerial team

Erika Holt
January 12, 2018

UK Prime Minister Theresa May attempted to inject new energy into a government weighed down by Brexit on Monday, reorganizing her top ministerial team with an eye to strengthening the apparatus of her governing Conservative Party.

According to Curtice, May failed to achieve her first objective, as Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt refused to be moved to the position of business secretary while Secretary for Education Justine Greening stepped down from the government, after turning down the offer to become work and pensions secretary.

The reshuffle was meant to "refresh" May's team after a torrid 2017, when she called a snap election only to lose her parliamentary majority, and in which three of her senior ministers were forced to resign in scandals.

The former Conservative party chairperson, Patrick McLoughlin, lost his job after the disastrous snap election.

The Times' Sam Coates reports that Conservative Party staff tweeted the false news about Grayling and sent a Whatsapp message to MPs announcing the news on the basis of media speculation.

A series of junior ministers were swept aside into Conservative HQ as "vice chairs", opening up space for fresh blood when the job moves are completed on Tuesday; and new-intake backbenchers, including the young MP for Mansfield Ben Bradley, were also given campaigning roles.

"I think she is leaving the top people and the big departments in place, but they are having to look over their shoulders".

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"Some changes do have to be made and I will be making some changes", May said. It is not envisaged to be satisfied with replacing resigned, as it did in cases of Fallon and Patel, but it is not likely that changes will affect main figures of government, such as Philip Hammond, Chancellor of Exchequer; Boris Johnson, head of Foreign Office; Amber Rudd, Interior proprietor, or David Davis, Minister of Brexit.

Negotiations on a transition deal begin this month, while the toughest talks, on Britain's future relationship with the European Union including trade, are set to start in March.

"A prime minister who at Christmas was just looking politically a little bit stronger seems pretty much back to base camp again", Dr. Curtice remarked.

After starting the two-year withdrawal process in March 2017, Britain struck a deal in December 2017 on the financial settlement with Brussels, as well as on expatriate rights and the Irish border.

Johnson, a leading Brexit supporter, kept his job at the foreign office, despite challenging May's strategy in 2017, as did fellow eurosceptic Liam Fox, the worldwide trade minister.

Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire revealed he was stepping down for health reasons.

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