Thursday 12 December 2019

May defends her record as she signals major cabinet reshuffle

Theresa May pets a dog after attending church near her Maidenhead constituency. Photo: PA
Theresa May pets a dog after attending church near her Maidenhead constituency. Photo: PA

Gavin Cordon

Theresa May has signalled a radical reshuffle of her government, with up to six senior ministers facing the axe.

The UK prime minister will seek to stamp her authority with a cabinet revamp beginning today.

As MPs prepared to head back for Westminster following the Christmas break, she reaffirmed her intention to lead the Conservatives into the next general election.

At the same time she performed a U-turn on a manifesto pledge to give MPs the opportunity to reverse the ban on fox hunting. She admitted the issue had cost her party votes at last June's disastrous snap election when her Commons majority was wiped out.

"My own view hasn't changed but as prime minister my job isn't just about what I think about something, it's actually about looking at what the view of the country is," she told BBC One's 'Andrew Marr Show'.

"I think there was a clear message about that and that's why I say there won't be a vote on fox hunting during this parliament."

She defended her government's handling of the NHS winter crisis while acknowledging "nothing's perfect" in the health service.

She also confirmed plans to review decision-making by the Parole Board following the outcry over the release of black cab rapist John Worboys.

Despite the setback at the last election, Mrs May insisted she still wanted to lead her party into the next election due to take place in 2022, declaring: "I'm not a quitter. I'm in this for the long term."

But pressed on whether she would still be there the next time the country goes to the polls, she replied: "Obviously I serve as long as people want me to serve."

Downing Street sources indicated the reshuffle was expected to be conducted over two days, with junior and middle-ranking ministerial appointments likely to continue into tomorrow.

It is likely to represent her biggest overhaul of her top team since she appointed her first cabinet on entering No 10 in 2016.

She made only limited changes among her senior ministers following the election in June, having seen her position badly weakened by the loss of her overall majority in the Commons.

It is thought her most senior ministers - including Chancellor Philip Hammond, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Brexit Secretary David Davis - will remain in their current posts.

However, Education Secretary Justine Greening, Conservative Party chairman Patrick McLoughlin, Business Secretary Greg Clark and the Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom are among those reported to be vulnerable.

Downing Street sources sought to play down the reports, describing them as "speculation" and "guesswork".

It is thought that Mrs May will take the opportunity to bring forward some more junior ministers, with Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis and Justice Minister Dominic Raab among those tipped for promotion.

It is unclear, however, whether she will announce a direct replacement for Damian Green, who was forced to quit as her effective deputy after he admitted lying over the alleged discovery of pornographic material on his Commons computer during a police raid in 2008.

Irish Independent

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