Published: 13:02, 15 September 2021
| Updated: 14:12, 15 September 2021
Boris Johnson is carrying out a shake-up of his top team, with Cabinet ministers expected to be sacked to make way for new blood.
A reshuffle has long been expected in Westminster and sources said the Prime Minister is determined to put in place a “strong and united” Cabinet.
Gavin Williamson, one of the ministers deemed most at risk of the sack, appeared to confirm 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.
Confirmation that a reshuffle was being carried out came as Mr Johnson led Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons.
“The PM will today conduct a reshuffle to put in place a strong and united team to build back better from the pandemic,” a No 10 source said.
“Yesterday, the PM set out his plan for managing Covid during the autumn and winter.
“But the Government must also redouble our efforts to deliver on the people’s priorities.
“The PM will be appointing ministers this afternoon with a focus on uniting and levelling up the whole country.”
Mr Johnson’s presence in the Commons could allow him to sack ministers in his private office, away from the cameras in Downing Street.
Following Prime Minister’s Questions, Tory Party co-chairwoman Amanda Milling and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick were seen going into Mr Johnson’s parliamentary office.
The scale of the reshuffle remains unclear, but it could be extensive – with senior ministers including Home Secretary Priti Patel and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab among those rumoured to be at risk of demotion or the sack.
Mr Williamson’s performance in the education brief had left him vulnerable after widespread criticism over his handling of his departmental responsibilities during the coronavirus pandemic.
“It has been a privilege to serve as Education Secretary since 2019,” he said.
“Despite the challenges of the global pandemic, I’m particularly proud of the transformational reforms I’ve led in post-16 education: in further education colleges, our skills agenda, apprenticeships and more.
“This programme will create better life opportunities for pupils and students for many years to come. I look forward to continuing to support the Prime Minister and the Government.”
During Prime Minister’s Questions, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Ms Patel sat to Mr Johnson’s left and Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg to his right – with other heavy hitters in the Cabinet not seen in the chamber.
Cabinet-level changes are expected to take place on Wednesday, but the shake-up of more junior ministerial ranks will continue on Thursday.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Mr Johnson understands “the importance of having a diverse Cabinet” but would not guarantee that female representation around the table will be maintained at least at its current level following the reshuffle.
Former Downing Street aide Dominic Cummings has branded the shake-up the “Carrie reshuffle”, suggesting that Mrs Johnson’s allies will be rewarded.
But asked if the Prime Minister’s wife had been consulted on the reshuffle, the No 10 spokesman said: “No.”