After what seems to have been the fastest 48 hours of Theresa May’s premiership, featuring high profile resignations and the threat of a Conservative party leadership context, the Prime Minister has finally agreed on who to appoint to the Cabinet.
Firstly, we have Amber Rudd who has been reappointed to the Cabinet as Work and Pensions Secretary following Esther McVey’s resignation. Clearly, Mrs May is keen to draught in staunch supporter Mrs Rudd after what has been arguably the hardest week in a short premiership. Rudd, who resigned as Home Secretary just seven months ago over the botched handling of the Windrush scandal, will now oversee the rollout of Universal Credit, amid growing criticism of the controversial welfare change. Rudd has described the Prime Minister’s draft proposal as “exciting” earlier this week, and leapt to the embattled Prime Minister’s defence arguing that “this is not a time for changing our leader.”
The more interested appointment is the new Brexit Secretary, the third this year. Steven Barclay has been named as the new secretary, replacing Dominic Raab following his resignation which sparked the day of ensuing chaos. Elected MP for North East Cambridgeshire in May 2010, Mr Barclay is a Brexiteer who had been serving in a ministerial role int he Department of Health and Social Care. Fellow MP, James Cleverly, praised Mr Barclay’s promotion, calling him a “real grafter and a real gent”. Downing Street confirmed that Barclay will continue to prepare the country for a deal of not deal Brexit. There had been growing speculation that Michael Gove was to replace MR Raab, however, the Prime Minister would not allow Mr Gove to renegotiate the draft agreement, which leads him to turn down the offer.
It is claimed that a Prime Minister’s main responsibility is to hire and fire Ministers. Their recent willingness to leave of their own accord indicates that her position is becoming untenable. However, for the European Research Group (ERG) whether or not to trigger a leadership contest is not clear. Whilst there is speculation that the 48 letter threshold has been met, there is no guarantee that Mrs May would lose a leadership election, possibly repeating former Conservative Prime Minister John Major’s ‘back me or sack me’ line.
If she won, her position would be secure for a year, at which point the letter could be submitted again. However, this would mean that if she were to lose the Commons vote on the draft agreement, which is highly likely, she could remain as Prime Minister. Therefore, timing is of the essence for any faction in her party that wants to remove her – do it too early and it may strengthen her, do it too late, and it may result in a Parliamentary vote of no confidence, and a Labour Government.