Big hitter returns to Levelling-up as experienced ministers head up key departments

Rishi Sunak (Credit: Flickr / HM Treasury)

New Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has set about shaping his Cabinet hours after Liz Truss’s formal departure from Number 10.

Sunak was named the new leader of the Conservative Party yesterday after being the only candidate still in the contest after late withdrawals by Boris Johnson and Penny Mordaunt, and officially became Prime Minister today.

Jeremy Hunt, whose appointment as Chancellor marked the beginning of the end of Truss’s leadership, is staying at Number 11.

He is expected to deliver the second part of his fiscal plans next Monday, following last week’s announcements that reversed almost all of Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-Budget, which precipitated the leadership crisis in Government.

Grant Shapps

Former Transport Secretary, and Home Secretary for the last week, Grant Shapps has been named the sixth Business Secretary in little more than three years.

He replaces Jacob Rees-Mogg, who had confirmed his departure earlier today. Rees-Mogg had been a somewhat-divisive appointment by Truss a few weeks ago and had previously been publically critical of Sunak.

Unexpectedly, Michael Gove is going back to run the Department for Levelling-Up. His white paper was a cornerstone of Government policy when it was published in February, but it had appeared destined to be left in a drawer under Truss.

Michael Gove addressed the Conservative Party Conference in his first major speech as Levelling-up Minister in October 2021

Sunak has also not been a vocal supporter of levelling-up, despite being the first MP for a Yorkshire constituency to become Prime Minister.

During the summer leadership campaign Sunak was recorded boasting to a meeting of Conservative members in Tunbridge Wells that he had sought to undermine efforts to rebalance the economy.

He said: “We inherited a bunch of formulas from Labour that shoved all the funding into deprived urban areas and that needed to be undone. I started the work of undoing that.”

Levelling-up minister Simon Clarke, a key player in mayoral devolution deals, and Conservative Party chairman Jake Berry, who had previously set up the Northern Research Group of Conservative MPs, have both left Cabinet.

Stratford-upon-Avon MP Nadhim Zahawi, who was briefly Chancellor during the summer, has replaced Berry as party chair.

Reappointed to the roles held in Truss’s Cabinet are foreign secretary James Cleverly, Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt, international trade secretary Kemi Badenoch, and defence secretary Ben Wallace. The ongoing war in Ukraine is partly why the Wyre and Preston North MP is the only Cabinet member to retain the same job through the Johnson-Truss-Sunak governments this year.

Suella Braverman has returned as Home Secretary just days after resigning the role blaming a security breach, while Dominic Raab has returned to the two roles he held under Boris Johnson, of deputy prime minister and justice secretary.

Senior departures include West Midlands MP and chief whip Wendy Morton, former education secretary Kit Malthouse, and Chloe Smith from the Department for Work and Pensions.

Smith has been replaced by Sunak ally Mel Stride who, as chair of the Treasury Select Committee, had been vocal in his criticisms of the mini-Budget and lack of OBR forecasts.

Earlier today Sunak had spoken outside Number 10 and said he was “not daunted” by the challenges facing his Government.

He said: “I understand how difficult this moment is. After the billions of pounds it cost us to combat Covid, after all the dislocation that caused in the midst of a terrible war that must be seen successfully to its conclusions, I fully appreciate how hard things are.

“And I understand too that I have work to do to restore trust after all that has happened.”

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