Rishi Sunak has partially revamped his top team, announcing five new appointments and four shiny new Whitehall departments.
He’ll still need to do more in the months ahead, if Deputy PM Dominic Raab is forced to resign and when the Tories get a kicking, as the polls suggest is likely, in the May elections.
Greg Hands, a firm ally of the PM and veteran campaigner, is replacing the recently sacked Nadhim Zahawi as Conservative party chairman. The former international trade secretary said it was an “honour” to accept the new position.
Today was more of an exercise in hiring than firing – thanks to Sunak’s decision to unveil four new government departments – and restructure existing ones.
Crucially, the PM has created a standalone department to prioritise energy security. Grant Shapps, the former business secretary, has (of course) welcomed the announcement that he’ll serve as the first Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero in this newly-formed department. Shapps has reason to be chuffed – a senior government source has told the BBC that this department will be placed “just under the Great Offices of State” in terms of importance. Last year, it looked as though it might be over and out for Shapps. Now he is in charge of the vital, highly complex work of reconstructing the nation’s energy policy. What could possibly go wrong?
The idea of an energy department is something Sunak has been considering for months – though Labour has been quick to point out it is hardly his brainchild. Rather, it’s the revival of a former department the Tories scrapped.
Next up, we have the newly formed department for Business and Trade, over which Kemi Badenoch, the current international trade secretary, will preside, with a mission to champion free trade and back British business at home and abroad. The PM has said today that “business and trade naturally go together”, meaning “when you’re planning trade deals to benefit UK business it makes sense to link them together under one secretary of state.”
And finally, there is the cutting-edge sounding new department for Science, Innovation and Technology. Michelle Donelan, former Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has been asked to head this department, ensuring Britain invests in the sciences to drive growth.
Lucy Frazer, who previously served as levelling-up minister, will take Donelan’s former spot. Though not exactly – DCSM has been broken up, much to the dismay of Nadine Dorries, meaning Frazer will instead become the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
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