Theresa May’s cabinet reshuffle, which had been expected to be the biggest shake-up since her election, has been labelled a disaster. One MP quit instead of accepting a demotion and another minister refused to give up a portfolio.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt threw a spanner in the works for the prime minister, when he refused a move to become Business Secretary. May had wanted to take Hunt away from the health brief, following the intense criticism he had faced over the NHS’ winter crisis. Instead, Hunt effectively received a promotion on Monday, having his responsibilities expanded to include social care.
Theresa May to Jeremy Hunt:
TM: I don’t want you to be Health Secretary anymore.
JH: Why not?
TM: Because you aren’t doing a good enough job.
JH: But all doctors hate me and I’ve created a humanitarian crisis. I know I can do better.
JH promoted to Social Care#cabinetreshuffle
— Aaron Jones (@ReelWeddingsUK) January 9, 2018
As if one revolting MP wasn’t enough, May then had a two-hour showdown with Putney MP Justine Greening. The minister, who served as education secretary, chose to quit government altogether rather than take the helm at the Department for Work and Pensions.
#CabinetReshuffle This government is like the Titanic. It is sinking fast, captained by an incompitent, yet still able only to look after the interests of the very rich.
The should be a General Election immediately. The entire cabinet is useless.
— the professor duck (@jovisgoesnuts) January 9, 2018
Downing St said the prime minister was left “disappointed” by Greening’s decision to throw in the towel. MP Damian Hinds was promoted to the Education Secretary position in Greening’s wake.
By the end of the day, three ministers had resigned; Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire unexpectedly quit for health reasons.
Well, I think it is fair to say the PM’s #cabinetreshuffle was not the dramatic political shake-up it was predicted to be.
— Robert Carter (@Bob_cart124) January 9, 2018
If this calamitous government was a football referee, the crowd would constantly be chanting “yer don’t know what yer doing!” #cabinetreshuffle
— Steve Haythorne (@SteveHaythorne) January 9, 2018
Another three were moved to other departments, and four ministers landed a promotion to Cabinet portfolios.
Though the reshuffle was expected to be a significant shake-up, seventeen Cabinet ministers kept their previous briefs, including Tory titans Philip Hammond, Amber Rudd, Boris Johnson, and David Davis.
One Tory MP told Isabel Hardman, assistant editor of the Spectator, how Monday’s cabinet overhaul was the “worst reshuffle I have ever witnessed in any party ever,” the MP said.
“None of it makes sense. It’s sabotage. I think someone’s trying to destroy her on the inside. I can’t think of a less dramatic reason.”
Another serving minister echoed a similar sentiment to the Telegraph: “It’s the reshuffle that never was, it’s bizarre. It just looks weak,” they said.
Labour MP Yvette Cooper summarized May’s disastrous attempt to rejig her ministry on Twitter:
“So 2 people she wanted to move stayed, 2 people she wanted to stay in Cabinet left, 2 people got appointed to the same job in ten minutes, & 2 people got extra words in their titles,” she said. “Quite a reshuffle.”
Even the papers that usually support the PM were critical of May’s reshuffle ‘fail’.
In reference to the TV show ‘Yes, Prime Minister’, the Daily Mail ran the headline “No, prime minister”. The Telegraph, referencing the infamous night of the long knives, went with ‘Night of the blunt stiletto’.
The title of ‘biggest gaffe of the day’, however, goes to the curious case of the vanishing promotion. The @Conservatives twitter account had named MP Chris Grayling as party chairman, and for a glorious 27 seconds he was – until the erroneous tweet was swiftly deleted. Immigration minister Brandon Lewis was later confirmed as the Conservative Party Chair – with the party announcing the appointment on Twitter… managing to misspell ‘portfolio’.
More ministerial appointments are expected on Tuesday.