Tory MPs urge Boris Johnson to reshuffle underperforming ministers next week

Would there be anyone left unshuffled? – Owl

By Arj Singh inews.co.uk

Tory MPs have urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to carry out a Cabinet reshuffle next week to sack underperforming ministers and end the “paralysis” in Whitehall.

Several Conservatives, including some who are unlikely to be promoted, have told i the Prime Minister should change his team of ministers before Parliament goes into summer recess on Thursday.

The party is “looking for a reshuffle”, one said.

However, Mr Johnson is not expected to carry out a reshuffle before MPs leave Westminster for the summer, despite widespread speculation in the spring that a rejig was imminent.

One of the main reasons for making a change would be to remove “ministers that shouldn’t be ministers”, with some MPs fearing a repeat of the exam grades chaos of last summer under Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

“The Government needs sharpening up and some of the ministers need sharpening up,” one experienced MP said.

“There are one or two that certainly should be moved or dropped, definitely.”

Another Tory said: “The education department has not shown itself in a particularly good light, it’s the one that’s messed up the most (during the Covid pandemic) and hasn’t actually come back with anything productive.”

But they speculated that Mr Johnson may hold fire until autumn or even spring 2022 to use ministers as a firebreak for any more Covid-related disasters.

Exam grades were “a complete fiasco”, the MP said.

“But maybe if it’s a complete fiasco again they can get rid of Gavin Williamson after blaming him for the mess.”

Health Minister Lord Bethell was also said to be in line for the chop having been caught up in the scandal that forced the resignation of his boss Matt Hancock as Health Secretary.

Some sources meanwhile blamed persistent briefings and rumours of a reshuffle in recent months for paralysing the Government.

In March, the PM’s then-press secretary Allegra Stratton even suggested to reporters that Mr Johnson would shake up the Cabinet in the coming months and promote more women.

There were further briefings and rumours around the time of the Hartlepool by-election in May.

One Whitehall source told i the situation has caused paralysis in Government departments for weeks.

Officials would begin preparing packs for new recruits, while filing away difficult decisions that they disagreed with their current minister on – in the hope that their successor would approve them, the source said.

MPs meanwhile see the effect on ministers, with one suggesting some have “given up completely and are just waiting to hear if they are staying, moving or being dumped”

“Everything awkward is now just stuck in the ‘leave it for next person’ tray,” one said. 

Another MP warned Mr Johnson it would be a “mistake” to delay a reshuffle, as appears likely.

“There’s too many people in the wrong jobs, there’s too many people looking to the next job, thinking they are going to move in three weeks’ time”, they said.

Some experienced ministers are also said to want a reshuffle now, fearing they could be “squeezed out” with a delay that would see more 2017 and 2019 intake MPs come into the frame as they gather experience.

But MPs were sceptical about the chances of any changes next week, with Johnson already having a mini-reshuffle forced on him by the departure from the Cabinet of Hancock for breaking Covid rules, to be replaced by Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

“I think the general attitude before was that Hancock was going to go in this reshuffle,” one of the MPs said.

“Brokenshire has also resigned for health reasons, so we’ve had a sort of piecemeal reshuffle that isn’t a reshuffle.

“There’s too much little stuff going on so there won’t be a big one, which I think will frustrate some people.

“There are some Cabinet members who frankly shouldn’t still be in place, but somehow manage to survive.”

Downing Street was approached for comment.

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