A piece by Francis Elliott, Political Editor, Steven Swinford and Oliver Wright, in today’s Times:
Boris Johnson will promote Priti Patel to the top of government today as he builds a cabinet to sell an optimistic vision of Brexit to “modern Britain”.
Ms Patel, a 47-year-old hardline Brexiteer, was on course to be made home secretary as the new prime minister started to fill his top team. [J4MB: This appointment, if confirmed, could be good news. Patel is a Thatcherite, not a feminist.]
She was forced to quit as international development secretary by Theresa May in November 2017 and is one of only 28 Tory MPs who voted against her deal all three times that it was put to the Commons.
Jeremy Hunt’s future in the cabinet was in doubt as he resisted demotion from foreign secretary. The defeated leadership contender, who is 52, is understood to have turned down the post of defence secretary.
Mr Johnson, 55, will become the country’s third prime minister since the 2016 Brexit referendum after he won two thirds of Tory members’ votes.
In his acceptance speech the former foreign secretary acknowledged that some would “question the wisdom” of their decision. However, he said that he would energise the nation with a new “spirit of can-do” as it left the European Union. “We are once again going to believe in ourselves and what we can achieve,” he said.
Matt Hancock, a key ally, said that Mr Johnson would use his first Downing Street address this afternoon to outline a programme of domestic reforms beyond the horizon of Brexit. “He feels there hasn’t been enough attention on education, social care, and extra police,” Mr Hancock told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “Expect early progress on the domestic agenda.”
He also insisted that no formal agreement would be struck with the party of Nigel Farage to deliver Brexit. “There is no way that we are going to have any kind of electoral pact with the Brexit Party and with Nigel Farage,” he told the BBC.
President Trump lavished praise on Mr Johnson yesterday and said that he hoped that he would work with Mr Farage, leader of the Brexit Party. He said that the new prime minister had been described as “Britain Trump”. “That’s what they need,” he said. “He’ll get it done.”
Mr Johnson, who has sought to distance himself from the US president in the past, will seek to build “a cabinet for modern Britain”, according to aides. The aides said that he intended to increase the number of women attending as full cabinet members [J4MB emphasis] and that his wider team would contain a record number of non-white MPs, implying at least four.
inet members and that his wider team would contain a record number of non-white MPs, implying at least four.
Alok Sharma, a minister for employment, is all but certain to join the cabinet. Sajid Javid will remain in a prominent job but faces competition from Liz Truss for the role of chancellor.
Outside the top team Mr Johnson will promote Rishi Sunak, Oliver Dowden, Tracey Crouch and Robert Jenrick as he seeks to reward supporters.
As part of a drive to rally support for Brexit, Mr Johnson has asked Andrew Griffith, a Sky executive who owns the £9.5 million Westminster townhouse that Mr Johnson used as a campaign base, to be his chief business adviser. He has made a public relations campaign to prepare the country for leaving the EU an immediate priority.
Brexiteers hailed Mr Johnson’s victory as a clear mandate to make good his “do or die” pledge to leave the EU on October 31, but he chose a Remainer to be his chief whip. The appointment of Mark Spencer, until now a low-profile senior whip, was welcomed by Mr Hunt’s supporters as a sign that the new leader was prepared to reach out across the party, which, with the help of ten DUP MPs, has a majority of two.
Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, said that she had spoken to Mr Johnson and confirmed that her party’s “confidence and supply” agreement with the Conservatives remained in place although its terms would be reviewed, an indication that the party could demand more funding for Northern Ireland.
Mrs May, who will resign today after a final session of prime minister’s questions, offered her congratulations but stressed that Mr Johnson should work “to deliver a Brexit that works for the whole UK” — a clear warning against a no-deal departure. She used her last cabinet meeting to stress the dangers to the Union of leaving without a deal.
Gavin Barwell, Mrs May’s chief of staff, said that she would be leaving with “huge frustration” at not managing to secure Brexit. He told Today: “The numbers in parliament are not going to change, the EU’s negotiating position is not going to change, but her successor has a clear mandate and right to try his own approach.”
Mr Johnson has been left in no doubt about the opposition he will face from his own benches if he attempts to force through a no-deal Brexit.
Sir Alan Duncan quit as Foreign Office minister on Monday and yesterday was joined by David Gauke, the justice secretary, and Anne Milton, an education minister. Philip Hammond, the chancellor, and Rory Stewart, the international development secretary, will join them on the back benches today.
Jeremy Corbyn urged Mr Johnson to call a general election and promised to table a motion of no confidence in him “when it is appropriate to do so”.
“He’s been elected by less than 100,000 people, and he’s been elected on a programme which appears to be tax write-offs for the very richest and a no-deal exit from the European Union,” the Labour leader said.
Barry Gardiner, the shadow international trade secretary, told Today that a motion of no confidence remained “a nuclear option to be used advisedly and carefully”, but he said that Labour was having discussions with potential Conservative rebels.
Elsewhere in the paper is the news that Munira Mirza has been appointed to lead the Downing Street policy unit.
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