The new Cabinet: A statement of intent?

Driving from Bushmills to Belfast yesterday afternoon, I listened to Theresa May’s first speech as Prime Minister with Neil Wilson. It goes without saying that as members of Conservatives for Liberty’s executive team, we have both been very critical of Mrs May throughout her time in the Home Office.

But listening to her words, we were pleasantly surprised. Yes, it was all a bit ‘One Nation-y’, but it also spoke to some of our fundamental Conservative values. My biggest hope is that the new Prime Minister will recognise the power of markets to achieve our shared aims. And this hope was lifted as Mrs May spoke these words:

“The Government I lead will be driven, not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours. We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives.”

As the news of the first Cabinet appointments came in, that hope was sustained further. Boris Johnson to the Foreign Office, David Davis in charge of negotiations to leave the EU, and Philip Hammond – who has a reputation as a fiscal hawk – the new Chancellor.

Liam Fox (finally) returns to the government with a new brief – leading our trade negotiations with the rest of the world. This new role and the appointment of Dr Fox to it is a strong, positive signal of our new Prime Minister’s intentions.

Patrick McLoughlin, former Secretary of State for Transport (a job now taken by Chris Grayling), is now Party Chairman. This is an interesting choice. McLoughlin addressed the Conservative Party conference in 1984 as a working miner, and is one of the few members of the House of Commons who worked with his hands. I will be very interested to see how his chairmanship of the party develops, and take his appointment as a further signal of Theresa May’s intended re-orientation of the party

There have been a few sackings, too. Welcome exits include George Osborne and Nicky Morgan, but I was sad to see Michael Gove has been sacked. Yes, Gove made grave errors of judgement in the past couple of weeks, but he is a great reformer and his capability as a Minister should not have been sacrificed.

Another sad loss is former Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers. CfL NI rated her capabilities, and the right people are pleased to see her go – including Sinn Féin. The Northern Ireland job is now taken by James Brokenshire, a former Minister in the Home Office under Theresa May, and we wish him all the best.

Stephen Crabb has resigned from the Department for Work & Pensions ‘in the best interests of his family’. Given recent revelations, it seems sensible for him to retire from front line politics – at least for awhile. His job has been taken by Damian Green, a close ally of Theresa May. This change may mean the Prime Minister has a new agenda for the department.

There have been some promotions, too. Liz Truss is now Secretary of State for Justice, taking Gove’s old job. Justine Greening takes the Education brief. Amber Rudd takes up Theresa May’s old post as Home Secretary. And to be honest, I’m not a fan of any of these and think they have been promoted beyond their capabilities. Given the noises we heard about Mrs May aspiring to a 50:50 gender split in Cabinet, it worries me that these women may have been promoted as a gesture to ‘equality’.

More positively, Priti Patel, who is on the record as saying the Department for International Development should be scrapped, has now been made Secretary of State for that department. I hope this is a statement of intent about the future of international aid.

Andrea Leadsom, the former leadership candidate, has been given DEFRA. This is a smart move – support within the Party for Andrea meant she needed to be given a Cabinet job, and this role means she will be responsible for managing the repatriation of a range of issues that are currently governed by the EU – chief among them agriculture & farming subsidies, and our fisheries.

The former Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has seen some changes – Sajid Javid, the previous Minister, has now gone to look after communities and local government. The skills part of his brief has been rolled back in to education, and the Department for Energy and Climate Change – Amber Rudd’s old brief – has been rolled into the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. This is now headed by Greg Clark, and will hopefully mark a shift away from ‘green crap’ and towards an energy policy that is better for our energy intensive industries – including the mired steel industry.

In all, it’s not the Cabinet I would have chosen, but it could have been a whole lot worse. Conservatives for Liberty will continue to work hard and advocate for freer markets and smaller government – help us by becoming a member.

Read the full Cabinet line up.


Emily is the Chairman of Conservatives for Liberty. Follow her on Twitter: @ThinkEmily

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The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty