Hacks anxiously awaiting a reshuffle this week after Monday’s confidence vote have been left disappointed, and it turns out there’s one man to blame for putting Boris off the idea: top coup instigator Tobias Ellwood. As rumours circulated throughout the week about potential personnel changes, Guido understands that when privately asked about it, Boris said “the trouble with a reshuffle is it’ll create another load of bloody Tobias Ellwoods…” In fact, Ellwood has become so unpopular with some of his colleagues that at least one minister has even blocked him on Twitter, having finally lost patience…
Party frustrations with Ellwood aren’t just limited to SW1. Guido also hears whispers from within his local association down in Bournemouth East that members are considering a campaign to deselect him as the candidate ahead of the next general election, following his genius idea to rejoin the EU single market and open the doors to uncontrolled immigration. One member even claimed to be “ashamed” of voting for him, with an online #EllwoodOut campaign also picking up steam. This will all no doubt come as a huge surprise to a man whose constituency voted 55% for Leave in 2016…
With another confirmed no confidence letter submitted this afternoon, and a very unhappy statement from veteran big hitter Andrea Leadsom this morning, yesterday’s hack speculation of an impending leadership vote is reaching new heights. The Guardian’s Jessica Elgot’s count has the numbers standing at 46 MPs who have “either confirmed they have written a letter, called for the PM to resign or suggested they would consider their position in same circumstances”. That doesn’t include the two MPs who told Guido in confidence their letters were with Brady back in February…
Amid this fevered recess excitement, word reaches ITV’s Paul Brand that Tory MPs now hear the PM has “begun calling his critics, hinting at the prospect of promotion and asking in return that they ‘stay with me’“.
Word among Conservative MPs is that Boris Johnson has begun calling his critics, hinting at the prospect of promotion and asking in return that they 'stay with me'. Clearly No 10 feel the threat of a confidence vote if those kind of approaches are being made.— Paul Brand (@PaulBrandITV) May 31, 2022
Does this hint at a potential reshuffle? Guido was the first outlet to accurately report plans for a February reshuffle at the start of the year, with his same source saying there would be a further, more substantive, reshuffle after the Sue Gray report was published in full. This was then followed up in The Times that month, which reported the mini-reshuffle was merely “defensive” and the PM wants a bigger reshuffle in the summer to prepare for the next election.
When asked about any word on those plans for the last couple of weeks, however, those same sources seem to have gone cold. Multiple Boris allies tell Guido they’ve now heard nothing, though one suggested it’d be better to get it over and done with before the Summer recess if it is going to happen. In a similar vein, plans for ministerial hiring and firing haven’t been raised at any of No. 10’s morning meetings…
Boris has begun a (very) mini-reshuffle of Ministers, most guesses are it’ll mainly focus on the whip’s office and redistributing some of Steve Barclay’s jobs to his fellow cabinet ministers. There are also rumours chief whip Mark Spencer will be moved to Leader of the Commons, with Rees-Mogg moved to a ‘Brexit opportunities’ job in the Cabinet Office. Time will tell…
18.47: Chris Pincher appointed deputy chief whip
17.09: Wendy Morton promoted from Under-Secretary of State to Minister of State in the Department for Transport.
15.09: Heather Wheeler appointed Parliamentary Secretary in the Cabinet Office, in addition to her current role as an Assistant Government Whip.
13.44: Chris Heaton-Harris appointed Chief Whip
13.41: Stuart Andrew appointed Minister of State (Minister for Housing) at DLUHC
13.31: Mark Spencer replaces Rees-Mogg as Leader of the Commons and Lord President of the Privy Council
13.23: Rees-Mogg appointed Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency at the Cabinet Office
13.11: Chris Heaton-Harris into No. 10
13.06: Chris Pincher into No. 10
13.06: Stuart Andrew in through 70 Whitehall
12.30: Rees-Mogg heads to Downing Street
It says a lot about the volatility of Boris’s premiership that his major hint of an impending reshuffle seems to have been missed by much of the Lobby. Comments by the PM at last night’s meeting of the Tory party – backbenchers and payroll – were flagged to Guido by senior sources as a sign another shake-up of his ministerial team is in the offing. Boris told the party that along with the already announced Downing Street reforms, further changes in government will happen. It could be “imminent”.
Guido was also first to reveal the PM won over swathes of support from wavering MPs by promising to massively up their involvement in No. 10’s policy-making, saying he liked Graham Brady’s suggestion of 1922-organised MP policy committees.
In a sign of how the day had played out, in the evening Birmingham 2019 MP Gary Sambrook put out a gushing tweet about the PM:
I’ve listened carefully to the Prime Minister today, the @BorisJohnson we love and who has delivered. He’s made promises on how he wants to change how he does things, how he wants to deliver for my constituents and the UK and I support him in doing that. Let’s get on with the job— Gary Sambrook MP (@GarySambrook89) January 31, 2022
Guido understands he’s now withdrawn his letter of no confidence to Graham Brady. After the vaccine rollout and Brexit, the new shadow whipping operation has to be one of the most impressive things Boris’s No. 10 has managed to organise…
The Foreign Secretary is to become lead negotiator with the EU on the Northern Ireland Protocol, following the departure of Lord Frost.
Liz Truss will take over Ministerial responsibility for the UK’s relationship with the European Union with immediate effect.
She will become the UK’s co-chair of the Partnership Council and the Joint Committee, and will lead the ongoing negotiations to resolve the problems arising from the current operation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Chris Heaton-Harris will become Minister of State for Europe and will deputise for the Foreign Secretary as necessary on EU Exit and the Protocol.
The Queen has been pleased to approve the following appointments:
Frost resignation letter: