Liz Truss has been appointed Foreign Secretary as Boris Johnson dramatically reshaped his top team to hand Michael Gove key roles while Dominic Raab was demoted and Gavin Williamson sacked.
Following widespread criticism of his handling of the Afghanistan crisis, Mr Raab was moved from the Foreign Office to become Justice Secretary but, while he was also handed the title of Deputy Prime Minister, he was clearly moved down the hierarchy.
Two of the great offices of state are now held by women after Ms Truss was promoted during Wednesday’s reshuffle and Priti Patel kept her role of Home Secretary despite speculation she would be sacked.
While Mr Raab retains his seat at the Cabinet table, the Prime Minister sacked Mr Williamson, Robert Jenrick and Robert Buckland.
Mr Williamson’s ousting after extensive criticism over his handling of the coronavirus crisis in schools paved the way for Nadhim Zahawi to be promoted to Education Secretary from his role as vaccines minister.
Not only did Mr Gove succeed Mr Jenrick as Housing Secretary but the Prime Minister entrusted him with a further key position in the post-coronavirus agenda by handing him responsibility for “levelling up” while maintaining his role trying to ward off Scottish independence.
Meanwhile, Amanda Milling was ousted as Tory party co-chairwoman just weeks before the Conservative conference.
Oliver Dowden moves from culture secretary to replace Ms Milling as co-chairman of the Tory Party, as well as holding the title Minister without Portfolio.
Nadine Dorries, a best-selling author and former star of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here, becomes Culture Secretary in what critics perceived as a move by Mr Johnson to ramp up the so-called “culture war”.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan was promoted to replace Ms Truss as International Trade Secretary and Steve Barclay succeeded Mr Gove as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and minister for the Cabinet Office.
In a tweet following the reshuffle, the Prime Minister said: “The Cabinet I have appointed today will work tirelessly to unite and level up the whole country.”
Mr Raab’s demotion comes after he was heavily criticised for being on holiday as the Taliban swept across Afghanistan.
The title Deputy Prime Minister formalises a role he performed as first secretary of state when he stood in for Mr Johnson while the Prime Minister was in hospital with coronavirus.
Mr Raab said he was “delighted” with his new roles following lengthy talks with Mr Johnson in the Prime Minister’s Commons office.
Downing Street confirmed Mr Williamson had been sacked by the Prime Minister on Wednesday afternoon, with the same fate greeting Mr Buckland as justice secretary and Mr Jenrick from housing.
The Prime Minister was carrying out a long-awaited shake-up of his top team with plans to put in place a “strong and united” Cabinet following the turbulence of the pandemic.
Mr Williamson was one of the ministers deemed most at risk of being told to return to the backbenches, particularly due to his handling of the exams fiasco during the Covid-19 crisis.
He announced his exit by saying “it has been a privilege to serve as education secretary since 2019”, adding that he will continue to support the Prime Minister and the Government.
After receiving the axe, Mr Jenrick pledged to continue supporting the Prime Minister “in every way I can”.
“I’m deeply proud of all we achieved,” he said, thanking his colleagues at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
His sacking from Mr Johnson’s top team followed controversies including the unlawful approval of a Tory donor’s housing development and his eyebrow-raising journeys during lockdown.
Also to go was Mr Buckland, who noted “years of underfunding” had not helped the legal system recover from backlog created by the pandemic in his departure letter to Mr Johnson.
The courts system has been under huge strain during the pandemic but a specific reason for his departure was unclear.
Sir Bob Neill, the Conservative MP who chairs the Commons Justice Committee, criticised Mr Buckland’s exit, saying: “You deserved better.”
“You did a first-rate job and, importantly, always stood up for the rule of law and the integrity of the justice system,” Sir Bob added.