Will Rishi Sunak reshuffle his top team in a matter of days if not hours? That’s the rumour going around Westminster this evening. As I first reported last month, there have been plans for some time for a summer reshuffle before MPs head home for the long recess. However, this was then complicated by the triple by-election. The original plan was to hold the by-elections last week – 13 July – which would have freed up this week for Sunak to try to move the narrative on with a wide-ranging pre-election reshuffle. The fact that the by-elections are this week instead means that it is now more complicated both politically and logistically. If Sunak loses all three, is it a wise move to go around sacking ministers? What’s more, if he waits beyond Wednesday, most MPs will be away from the Commons.
It’s still the case that Sunak could choose to move this week – perhaps Friday – with no final decision understood to be made. As for what it could bring, Ben Wallace’s announcement that he will step down at the next reshuffle leaves the plum job of defence secretary vacant. The current contenders include Sunak ally John Glen (sharing various tweets linked to defence), security minister Tom Tugendhat (with ‘allies’ of Tugendhat tipping him for the role), Anne-Marie Trevelyan (who has suggested she would be keen if offered) and current leader of the house Penny Mordaunt. Mordaunt didn’t exactly delight Team Sunak when she refused to stand aside during the second leadership contest last year – but there are plenty of MPs who feel she would be well placed to return to the brief that she held prior to Wallace’s appointment. There is also talk that the current Foreign Secretary James Cleverly could be moved to the brief, freeing up a great office of state.