Sunday 21 January 2018

How May's Cabinet bloodbath shocked even hardened hacks

Theresa May. Photo: Reuters
Theresa May. Photo: Reuters

Michael Deacon

As Theresa May strode towards 10 Downing Street for her first full day    as Britain's new prime minister, the media were in a flap.

"This is a brutal reshuffle, Mrs May, isn't it?" shouted the BBC's Norman Smith.

"A brutal reshuffle?" Mrs May smiled, sunnily.

True enough, numerous senior figures had got the boot. Among those following George Osborne to the backbenches were Nicky Morgan (previously education secretary) and Oliver Letwin (a close friend of David Cameron). Theresa Villiers (Northern Ireland) and Stephen Crabb (work and pensions) both resigned.

Michael Gove, the justice secretary, arrived to work in a ministerial limo and left in a cab. What a comedown.

He was later spotted in a book shop, buying a copy of 'Blood Wedding', a grim psychological thriller about a woman whose life falls apart and who is suspected of murdering her boss. I could be wrong, but I'm not sure he's taking this very well.

One of the few of David Cameron's senior ministers to keep their jobs was Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary.

Intriguingly, when Mr Hunt arrived for his meeting with Mrs May, he wasn't wearing his usual NHS badge; yet, when he emerged, he was wearing it again.

I wonder why he'd removed it. Maybe he'd filled his pocket with different badges, so he'd have an appropriate one ready for whichever department Mrs May gave him. He looked relieved.

Every so often, bouquets of flowers were delivered to Number 10, although whether they were sent by foreign heads of state or hopeful Tory MPs was unknown.

TV crews stood around, waiting anxiously for someone new to talk about.

Adam Boulton, presenting for Sky News, cut short an interview with a colleague to announce: "We're just seeing another arrival in Downing Street," he reported, squinting. "I can't quite see who it is… Coming through…"

It turned out to be a burly-looking man plastered in tattoos, delivering a green box. Mr Boulton returned apologetically to his colleague. "I thought it was a woman in a green dress," he said.

To Andrea Leadsom, who had been Mrs May's fiercest rival for Number 10, the prime minister awarded a promotion. Well, I say a promotion. The former junior energy minister was made environment secretary.

This job will, in due course, require Mrs Leadsom to explain to Britain's farmers why they're no longer receiving the subsidies they currently get from the EU - the membership of which Mrs Leadsom campaigned vociferously against.

I'm beginning to wonder which is worse - being sacked by Mrs May or being promoted by her.

Irish Independent

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