With a majority of 80, Boris Johnson has his pick when it comes to forming his new look government. However, for now the Prime Minister is contenting himself with a mere minor reshuffle – with plans for a wide-ranging reshuffle in the new year. Today he has filled vacancies in his Cabinet made from MPs standing down, resigning or losing their seat.
Simon Hart has been appointed Secretary of State for Wales replacing Alun Cairns who stood down from the role in November over allegations that a former aide sabotaged a rape trial. Hart – the MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire – entered parliament in 2010 and is well-liked across the party. A close ally of Gavin Williamson, Hart is seen as a moderate MP – forming the Brexit Delivery Group in the last parliament which acted as a counter to the European Research Group. The group's aim was to bring together MPs keen that the Conservatives delivered Brexit but avoided no deal. That Hart has been promoted is testament to the fact Johnson wants to form a broad government which includes different parts of the party. There had been speculation the brief could go to the Brexiteer MP David Jones.
Johnson had been expected to appoint a new Culture Secretary after Nicky Morgan chose not to seek re-election as an MP. However, they have found a workaround. Morgan is to stay on in the role and will be given a peerage. The Queen has signified her intention of conferring a peerage on Morgan. This could be a temporary brief for Morgan. Regardless, she was tipped for a peerage and has been a prominent figure throughout the election campaign – frequently taking to the airwaves to bat for the government. It is expected that a peerage will also be found for Zac Goldsmith, who lost his seat of Richmond Park to the Liberal Democrats, who prior to the election served as a minister of state in Defra.
Expect significant changes to the Cabinet next year. Talks are ongoing over a more drastic reshuffle which would see a string of ministers lose their jobs and others demoted or moved sideways. There is a view among some Johnson allies that the Cabinet ought to be slimmed down. This will be part of a revamp of Whitehall which will see departments redefined and some new departments created. The message of today's minor reshuffle is business as normal. The reshuffle in the new year will tell a bolder tale.