Boris Johnson has told officials to prepare for a reshuffle after the Spending Review, with Ministers judged on how they ‘grip’ their departments during preparations for the autumn announcement.
The Prime Minister is understood to have indicated that ‘competence and control’ will be used as the benchmarks for the reshuffle, which has become the subject of growing speculation among Ministers and their aides.
It comes as Mr Johnson faces growing challenges to his authority from backbenchers from different wings of the party opposed to the tightening of coronavirus restrictions, his hardball Brexit strategy, the relaxation of planning laws and mooted tax rises. Some have even joined a rebel WhatsApp group called ‘wtfisgoingon?’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned under performing ministers that they face the axe in an upcoming cabinet reshuffle
Several ministers have been tipped for being sacked, with the likes of Liz Truss and Gavin Williamson and Robert Jenrick all facing possible demotion
Many party donors have also become restive over the Government’s performance. Chancellor Rishi Sunak will publish the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), setting out the Government’s spending plans, in November. Ministers are preparing their submissions for budget allocations at a time of rare economic strain. They suspect No 10 of holding the threat of a reshuffle permanently over their heads to keep them in line. During the summer rumours spread that a ‘reshuffle board’ had appeared in Downing Street with names illegibly scrawled on it.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss is regularly tipped for the chop, but boosted her survival chances by securing a trade deal with Japan and apparently heeding what was said to be a ‘total b******ing’ by No 10 adviser Dominic Cummings for alleged leaking.
Sources tip her to replace Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, who endured a torrid summer of chaos and U-turns over A-level grades and doomed efforts to reopen schools. He could be moved to Jacob Rees-Mogg’s job as Leader of the Commons, with Mr Rees-Mogg taking Ms Truss’s trade role.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace – another Minister seemingly permanently on the brink of eviction – rehabilitated himself by working long days on November’s Defence Review and, in the words of a source, ‘keeping his nose clean’.
Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick is at risk in the wake of a lobbying scandal involving property developer Richard Desmond; but Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey, who has been tipped for the sack by some sources, is understood to be ‘highly rated’ by Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak.
A No10 source said: ‘The reshuffle will be about competence and control. Ministers who show they have a grip on their department in the run-up to the CSR will do well. If they leak they will be out.’
Mr Johnson faced further pressure from backbenchers last night as former leader Iain Duncan Smith led calls for the UK to give legal and consular aid to overseas British nationals in Hong Kong held under a new Chinese security law.
Speaker’s double-decker parliament plan
Sir Lindsay Hoyle is set to turn the Commons into a ‘double-decker’ debating chamber to get more MPs in but still comply with Covid rules.
The Speaker is poised to allow MPs to speak from visitor galleries high above the green benches – many of which are now sealed off because of strict two-metre social distancing. The move comes amid complaints that, as a result, the atmosphere in the Chamber is now ‘completely dead’.
Under controversial anti-Covid rules, only about 50 MPs can currently get into the Chamber at a time and the proposed changes would need the approval of Public Health England. A previous plan to reduce social distancing in the Chamber to just one metre was ruled out.
Sources say Sir Lindsay – backed by Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg – hopes the move will allow about 20 more MPs to take part in debates. They were previously able to speak from the galleries before proceedings were first televised in 1989 although by then it was increasingly rare.