Katy Balls Katy Balls

What will the next reshuffle look like?

(Photo by Andrew Parsons/No. 10 Downing Street)

Following reports over the weekend that Boris Johnson has threatened to demote Rishi Sunak to health secretary, Downing Street has today sought to downplay reports of a rift between the pair. After business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng used the morning media round to praise the Chancellor’s work, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson has insisted that Johnson has full confidence in Sunak. While it’s clear both sides are keen to kill reports of tension, they are unlikely to have their wish granted. What’s more, the comments have brought back speculation over a potential reshuffle. 

As a general rule, all cabinet reshuffle speculation ought to be taken with a heavy pinch of salt. The Prime Minister has proved rather reluctant to reshuffle his top team previously — the last big shake-up of the frontbench was February 2020 when Sajid Javid quit as chancellor and Sunak was brought in. That reshuffle did little for party morale — with many MPs left feeling overlooked — and has been enough to put the chief whip off repeating the exercise anytime soon.

The thinking goes that civil servants are much harder to corral when they believe a secretary of state is on the way out

Yet there have been hints of late that the Prime Minister may be warming to the idea. As well as openly talking about moving Sunak, Fraser has reported whispers that Johnson was actually planning an end of term summer reshuffle before the pingdemic meant he had to spend the last week before recess in self isolation. It’s part of the reason that Johnson allies believe that despite talk of no reshuffle until next year, there is a chance he moves to shake up his team this autumn. 

What would be the purpose of such a reshuffle? As I reported earlier this month, as the pandemic eases Johnson is turning his attention to domestic reform.

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