Monday 19 March 2018

Day of the Long Knives claims 10 victims in the harshest cull for 54 years

Out: Theresa Villiers. Photo: PA
Out: Theresa Villiers. Photo: PA

Peter Dominiczak and Christopher Hope

Theresa May carried out a cull of some of David Cameron's closest allies yesterday in an effort to distance her Government from her predecessor's administration.

By last night, 10 senior ministers had been either sacked or forced to resign following a two-day reshuffle designed to represent a clean break from Mr Cameron's administration.

Mrs May started the second day of her Cabinet reshuffle by sacking Michael Gove as Justice Secretary, Oliver Letwin as Cabinet Office minister, Nicky Morgan as Education Secretary and John Whittingdale as Culture Secretary.

Five more ministers including Theresa Villiers and Greg Hands were then removed from the Cabinet during what was described in Westminster as the "Day of the Long Knives" in reference to the "Night of the Long Knives", when the then Tory Prime Minister Harold Macmillan dismissed seven members of his Cabinet in 1962.

Sources close to Mrs May said that the scale of the changes meant that "this shows Theresa May is no caretaker" for her predecessor David Cameron's government.

Mr Gove, one of the architects of the Leave campaign in the EU referendum, had hoped to stay in his post and had in recent days made "efforts to reach out" to the new Prime Minister, sources said. However, in a sign of her ruthlessness, Mrs May told Mr Gove he would play no part in her Cabinet during a "business-like meeting" in her new Commons office.

Mrs May and Mr Gove clashed repeatedly when they served in Mr Cameron's government, notably over their policy on tackling extremism in schools.

Mr Gove told reporters as he climbed into a taxi to leave the House of Commons: "It's been an enormous privilege to serve for the last six years - best of luck to the new government."

Asked about his plans, Mr Whittingdale put on a brave face shortly after he was sacked, saying: "We are going to get drunk."

Mrs Villiers quit after refusing to accept a job as number two in the Home Office, which would have meant effectively swapping jobs with James Brokenshire.

There was speculation that Ms Villiers was moved from Northern Ireland because Mrs May wants a Remain supporting minister there to negotiate border issues with Ireland. The North voted Remain in the referendum.

The changes came after Mrs May sacked George Osborne as Chancellor, a post he held since May 2010, telling him he was not wanted in her government.

Other figures who were sacked from the Cabinet or resigned before being dismissed included Matthew Hancock, the Cabinet Office minister, Baroness Stowell, the Leader of the House of Lords, and Mark Harper, the former Chief Whip.

Brexit minister unaware of how EU deals work

The newly-appointed minister in charge of negotiating Britain's exit from the European Union appears to be unaware of how EU trade deals work, it has emerged.

David Davis was appointed as Theresa May's Secretary of State for Exiting the EU immediately after she arrived at Number 10.

The Leave backer and former Europe Minister said during the referendum campaign that Britain would negotiate individual trade deals with other EU countries. However, one of the main features of the EU is that member countries cannot negotiate individual trade deals and instead do so as a bloc of 28.

The rule, which was paraded by other parts of the Leave campaign during the referendum, leaves Mr Davis's original plan for one-on-one trade deals in tatters.

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