Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Three problems with Rishi Sunak’s reshuffle

(Photo: Getty)

Rishi Sunak’s reshuffle has confirmed a new set of government departments focused on science and business, and a new party chair. That’s all well and good: the Prime Minister is very keen to make Britain a science superpower and wants to put the right people in the right jobs as he prepares for the next election. Civil servants are moving into new jobs, as are ministers. The new departments will use the existing government estate, but it isn’t yet clear where they’ll all be. But there are a number of potential problems with what’s been announced today.

Is this the right reorganisation of Whitehall?

Changing government departments can sometimes just be a matter of redesigning the letterhead to reflect your priorities as an administration, such as the rebranding of Labour’s Department for Children, Schools and Families to the Tory Department for Education. Today’s reorganisation is bigger than that, splitting Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy into three new departments: Energy Security and Net Zero; Science, Innovation and Technology; and Business and Trade. That third department also subsumes International Trade. These will be big reorganisations in themselves, with civil servants moving buildings and a new ministerial team getting to grips with different sections working together under one roof for the first time – or at least the first time in a while. 

But shaking up one section of Whitehall does raise the question of why other departments are staying as they are. There has not been a big political operation rolling the pitch so that the need for this reorganisation has been made clear. No. 10 insisted today that ‘it’s been put forward from a number of individuals that business and trade naturally go together, and that when you’re planning trade deals to benefit UK business, it makes sense to link them together under one Secretary of State.’

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Isabel Hardman
Written by
Isabel Hardman
Isabel Hardman is assistant editor of The Spectator and author of Why We Get the Wrong Politicians. She also presents Radio 4’s Week in Westminster.

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