What Boris Johnson’s cabinet might look like

Tory leadership frontrunner considering shrinking the size of the PM’s top team amid a purge of Remain ministers

Boris Johnson
(Image credit: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

Boris Johnson is being urged to shrink the size of his cabinet if he becomes prime minister, amid reports he will look to carry out a purge of Remain ministers in a bid to take the UK out of the EU by 31 October with or without a deal.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the Tory leadership frontrunner “has already voiced a desire to merge the Department for International Development and the Foreign Office, but supporters are encouraging him to go further by reviewing the future of seven or more other departments to save billions of pounds”.

This could see departments for Justice, Business, Culture, International Trade, Work and Pensions, Transport, and Brexit abolished or merged, with the paper adding “the most hawkish of Johnson’s backers believe there is a case for cutting the number of Whitehall departments in half, from 25 down to 12”.

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Those in favour of the plan include many senior Brexit-supporting MPs who would hope to serve in a slimmed-down Johnson cabinet. These also include a number of former Tory leadership hopefuls who have rowed in behind Johnson in the hopes of securing a cabinet job if, as expected, he wins the keys to Downing Street later this month.

So what might his top team look like?

Who would be out?

The Daily Telegraph says that under the former London mayor, “as many as one third” of Theresa May’s current line-up could be replaced “by a new cadre of rising star politicians”.

The newspaper predicts that Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary David Gauke, Chief Whip Julian Smith and Leader of the House Mel Stride would be among those moved to the backbenches.

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd - who once described Johnson as “not the man you want driving you home at the end of the evening” - could also be at risk, after backing Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in the leadership campaign.

“Chancellor Philip Hammond, a Brexit pessimist who has sought to thwart no-deal preparations at every stage, will undoubtedly be out,” says Andrew Gimson, author of Boris: The Adventures of Boris Johnson, in an article for The Sun.

That would be unlikely to upset Hammond, who has said: “I would not be able to serve in any government that had as its policy leaving the European Union without a deal.”

International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, whose department could be merged with the Foreign Office under plans to slim-down Whitehall, has repeatedly ruled out working in a Johnson cabinet. However, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme last month: “If we ended up in a crisis, and I fear No-Deal Brexit would be a crisis, and if he were to wish me to come back, which I think is a little doubtful given the slight acrimony of the last few weeks, then, of course, I’d be honoured to serve.”

Who would be in?

Johnson is not known to have made any job promises to win over his colleagues, but is expected to “purge Remainers from his new Cabinet to surround himself with allies”, reports the Daily Express.

The Telegraph predicts that Hunt would retain his current role, as would Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt, Health Secretary Hancock and Home Secretary Sajid Javid.

Since pulling out of the race to succeed Theresa May, Hancock has become one of the former foreign secretary’s most vocal and visible supporters - leading some to suggest he is hoping to be made chancellor. Yet he will face stiff competition from Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss, an early Johnson backer who already has experience in the department.

“The clear-out is expected to see the arrival of key allies of Mr Johnson from his time at City Hall including James Cleverly and Kit Malthouse, ministers in the Brexit and Housing departments who served as deputy mayor under Mr Johnson,” the newspaper adds.

Meanwhile, The Sunday Times suggests that both Javid and Environment Secretary Michael Gove have their eyes on a promotion, with both of Johnson’s rivals in the leadership race allegedly issuing “coded job applications”.

“Auditioning to be Johnson’s chancellor, Javid detailed plans for an emergency Brexit budget to stimulate the economy in the event of a no-deal departure,” says the newspaper.

And in a seeming gesture of conciliation, Gove has said: “I would absolutely work with Boris in any way that he wanted to work with me. No question.”

According to the Times, Gove appears to be “offering himself as a potential communities secretary”, with plans to solve the housing crisis, while leadership rival Dominic Raab has outlined plans for an Australian-style points-based system for immigration that will be “seen by some as a pitch for the role of home secretary”, says the Sunday Times.

The Express predicts that Steve Baker, vice chair of the European Research Group of Tory MPs, would be made Brexit secretary under Johnson.

And Gimson in The Sun adds: “Priti Patel is likely to make a Cabinet comeback, as is former defence secretary Michael Fallon, a long-term supporter. He and Mr Johnson enjoy exchanging texts in Latin.”

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