Theresa May is expected to sack or move a quarter of her cabinet on Monday in her biggest reshuffle to date. Despite some pretty serious gaffes, however, some of her most notorious ministers will keep their positions.
Rumored to be facing the chop is Education Secretary Justine Greening and Conservative Party Chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin, who oversaw last year’s disastrous general election.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Chancellor Philip Hammond, Brexit Secretary David Davis, and gaffe-prone Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson have kept ministerial roles, despite each making the Tories a laughing stock at one time or another. It has not yet been announced if Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will keep his position.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd
Home Secretary Amber Rudd put her foot in it last year, inciting groans of disbelief from a room of delegates at the May 2017 Police Federation conference, when she responded to reports of police officers being forced to use foodbanks.
Rudd expressed “surprise” when a member of the audience told her that officers were resorting to handouts in order to “put food on the table or to put fuel in the car so they can get to work.”
Rudd stated that officers earned approximately £40,000 ($54,200) a year on average – a response that prompted gasps and grumbles from her audience.
“That’s what I am told. I see I haven’t quite won the room over yet, maybe I need to have further conversations about that,” added a backpedaling Rudd.
The Police Federation’s website says otherwise; Police Constables in the highest pay bracket can earn a maximum of £38,000 ($51,500) per year, while the starting salary is between £19,383 ($26,250) and £22,962 ($31,100).
May proved to be a bad month in general for the home secretary, who found herself mercilessly mocked online for her seeming technological ignorance after admitting that she didn’t understand hashtags or know how to use WhatsApp.
Her technological blind spot was exposed when it was put to her that Westminster attacker Khalid Masood had used the encrypted messaging system, WhatsApp, just minutes before mowing down pedestrians in his car. Rudd told the Andrew Marr Show that those who “best understand the technology” are the best people to handle it.
“It is completely unacceptable. There should be no place for terrorists to hide,” Rudd said. “We need to make sure that organizations like WhatsApp – and there are plenty of others like that – don’t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other.
“The best people who understand the technology, who understand the necessary hashtags to stop this stuff ever being put up, not just taken down, but ever being put up in the first place are going to be them.”
The internet responded with memes that ruthlessly ridiculed the home secretary for failing to comprehend what is now a basic social media tool.
Amber Rudd says she wants to consult with people who “understand the necessary hashtags”. Christ almighty these people make our laws. #marr
— Jack Blanchard (@Jack_Blanchard_) March 26, 2017
Chancellor Philip Hammond
While unemployment figures have shown a small decrease since the Tories took power, they haven’t been entirely eradicated, as Chancellor Philip Hammond claimed in November.
“Where are all these unemployed people? There are no unemployed people,” he said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. As of July 2017, 4.2 percent of people in the UK were unemployed.
Hammond, who was pressed on the issue by Marr, then attempted to clarify (read: backpedal), telling the BBC host that he had actually meant that unemployment was at a record low.
Naturally, his comments were met with ire from the public, media, and welfare-support workers across the UK, with Hammond being widely accused of being detached from the reality.
May seemed to be the month of mistakes for the Conservative Party, as Hammond made another gaffe on live radio. The chancellor was attempting to attack a perceived funding gap in Labour’s election policies, but instead and embarrassingly managing to muddle up his own figures.
Hammond fumbled over the cost of the High Speed Two (HS2), telling the BBC’s John Humphrys that the project would cost “about £32 billion ($43.4 billion).” Humphreys was quick to correct the Conservative chancellor, quipping “£32 billion? Not £52 billion ($70.5 billion)?”
Hammond, caught like a deer in headlights, managed a flustered reply: “Er, it’s… over… I mean… there’s a huge amount of contingency built into the budgeting for these projects,” he said. “These things almost always cost more than we expect.”
Brexit Secretary David Davis
Brexit Secretary David Davis was caught out on a lie recently – and boy, was it a big one. In December 2016, Davis said that the Conservative government was “in the midst of carrying out about 57 sets of analyses, each of which has implications for individual parts of 85 percent of the economy. Some of those are still to be concluded.”
12 months later he was forced to admit that no impact study had taken place. He copped flak from the media and the public – narrowly avoiding censure for contempt of parliament over the allegedly misleading statements.
Davis’ Brexit fails continued in November, when the Tory MP called for a smooth exit from the EU… and tripped over as he left the stage. The internet was quick to mock Davis, comparing the far-from “smooth and orderly” exit to the Brexit deal, of which he had just been speaking. Social media users turned to Twitter, comparing Davis’ awkward trip as a metaphor for Brexit negotiations.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt
Current Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt could be elevated to Secretary of State, taking over the position after Damian Green was sacked for lying about pornography being accessed on his parliamentary computer.
The promotion, which would effectively make Hunt the deputy PM, would certainly be a controversial decision by Theresa May. Last week, Hunt came under fire for his perceived absenteeism when English NHS facilities reached breaking point.
At least 21 NHS trusts issued social media alerts on New Year’s Day, urging the public to stay away from Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments. Patients were urged to steer clear of critical care services, and to come to hospital only with life-threatening conditions. One patient reported waiting for a hospital bed for 18 hours, and all non-critical surgeries have been cancelled until February as a result.
The scandal drew apologies from both Hunt and May, with the former saying of the cancelled operations that “we’re trying to do it differently this year” by informing patients that their operations have been cancelled earlier. The apology was mocked on social media, with users wondering why the NHS has to have annual cancellations anyway.
Anyone is better than Jeremy Hunt, but Anne Milton shouldn’t be appointed next Health Secretary as she’s married to a Director of Virgin Care. Seems like Tories number one priority is to destroy the NHS #cabinetreshuffle
— Parveen Agnihotri (@Parveen_Comms) January 8, 2018
Make absolutely no mistake. People talk about .@theresa_may & .@jeremy_hunt being in “denial” on NHS matters. There is nothing subconscious about their actions.
The underfunding of NHS is deliberate, sustained & there is an end goal.
The NHS does not fit their ideology. #marr
— Dr Lauren Gavaghan #NHSLove #FBPE (@DancingTheMind) January 7, 2018
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson
Ah, BoJo – the king of the gaffe, the latest of which saw Boris haunted by the ghosts of his journalistic past, with his significant portfolio of sexist and homophobic slurs resurfacing from his days working on Fleet Street.
Johnson leapt to the defense of Toby Young, who was accused of unsuitability for public office, but had his own dirty laundry hung out by journalists. It was revealed how the foreign secretary had used phrases like “tank-topped bumboys” and referred to women attending the Labour Party conference as mere “hot totty.”
The strongest calls for Johnson’s resignation came in November, when he told a Commons select committee that jailed British mum, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, had been teaching journalism on behalf of the her former employer, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, when she was in Iran. The charge almost resulted in her five-year sentence being doubled. He was later forced to apologize for his comments after significant backlash.
Endangering citizens and sexist slurs have seemingly had no effect on Johnson’s employment status, however. The foreign secretary and his similarly blunder-prone colleagues seem set to continue their antics into the new year.