Liz Truss becomes Foreign Secretary as Boris Johnson reshuffles top team
By Chronicle staff and agencies
Liz Truss was appointed UK Foreign Secretary on Wednesday as Boris Johnson dramatically reshaped his top team to demote Dominic Raab, hand Michael Gove key roles and sack Gavin Williamson.
Following widespread criticism of his handling of the Afghanistan crisis, Mr Raab was moved from the Foreign Office to become Justice Secretary but, while he was also handed the title of Deputy Prime Minister, he was widely seen as being moved down the hierarchy.
Two of the great offices of state are now held by women after Ms Truss, the International Trade Secretary, was promoted during Wednesday’s reshuffle and Priti Patel kept her role of Home Secretary despite speculation she would be sacked.
While Mr Raab retains his seat at the Cabinet table, the Prime Minister sacked Mr Williamson, Robert Jenrick and Robert Buckland.
The change at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office comes at a critical time for Gibraltar, which is poised with the UK to begin negotiations for a UK/EU treaty that will define the Rock’s post-Brexit relations with the bloc.
Mr Raab played a key role in reaching the New Year’s Eve political agreement that will provide the framework for those negotiations.
On Wednesday after the announcement in London, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo wrote to Mr Raab to thank him for his support during his time in office, in particular in respect of the framework agreement and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Picardo also wrote to the incoming Foreign Secretary, thanking Ms Truss for her support of Gibraltar as International Trade Secretary and looking forward to working in partnership with her in the upcoming treaty negotiation and as she takes on the wider role of leading the UK’s diplomacy around the world.
“It has been a real pleasure to work with Dominic in his time as Foreign Secretary,” Mr Picardo said.
“He has been a real support for Gibraltar and our position in the negotiations leading up to the New Year’s Eve Agreement and on all Brexit matters.”
“He has also been a crucial support on Covid, from working on the supply to us of life-saving vaccines and the £500m loan guarantee.”
“I have wanted to express the fulsome gratitude of the People and Government of Gibraltar for his work in partnership with us.”
In his letter to Mr Raab, Mr Picardo thanked Mr Raab for his “constructive and determined approach” during the negotiations last year.
“Your continued and determined commitment towards Gibraltar has been evident in ensuring that we achieved a robust New Year’s Eve agreement as the basis of negotiations for our continued prosperity,” the Chief Minister wrote.
“We are also deeply indebted to you for your personal intervention and interest in the Rock during the Covid-19 crisis.”
In his letter to Ms Truss, the Chief Minister thanked her for her support to date as International Trade Secretary, which has already delivered trade deals for Gibraltar.
“We now look forward to working even closer with you at the FCDO on the most important trade agreement for Gibraltar, namely our new, bespoke, trading relationship with the European Union,” he wrote.
“Rest assured that you have the full support of my Government and myself as we, together, enter the next stage of the UK-EU future relationship negotiations in partnership.”
Mr Raab’s demotion comes after he was heavily criticised for being on holiday as the Taliban swept across Afghanistan.
The title Deputy Prime Minister formalises a role he performed as first secretary of state when he stood in for Mr Johnson while the Prime Minister was in hospital with coronavirus.
Mr Raab said he was “delighted” with his new roles following lengthy talks with Mr Johnson in the Prime Minister’s Commons office.
Michael Gove, seen as a key player in the Johnson government, was moved to housing from his position in the cabinet office, a department at the centre of government which drives the implementation of policy. He was replaced by Stephen Barclay, a former Brexit minister.
Mr Raab's and Mr Gove's moves followed the sackings of three others: Gavin Williamson as education minister, Robert Buckland as justice minister and Robert Jenrick as the housing minister.
Mr Buckland had not committed any gaffes or been criticised over his decision-making, but was moved to make way for Mr Raab.
Mr Buckland, who said it had been an “honour” to serve in the Government for the last seven years, including the last two as justice secretary and lord chancellor.
“I am deeply proud of everything I have achieved. On to the next adventure,” he said.
The courts system has been under huge strain during the pandemic but a specific reason for his departure was unclear.
But Sir Bob Neill, the Conservative MP who chairs the Commons Justice Committee and is chairman of the All Party Group on Gibraltar, criticised Mr Buckland’s exit, saying: “You deserved better.”
“You did a first-rate job and, importantly, always stood up for the rule of law and the integrity of the justice system,” Sir Bob added.
Mr Williamson's downfall had been widely expected after he was criticised for his handling of school closures and exams during the Covid pandemic and for confusing two black campaigning sportsmen.
Mr Jenrick had been under fire over his role in a one billion pound development proposed by a Conservative Party donor.
Rumours of a reshuffle, and who might be on their way up or on their way out, have been swirling for weeks.
Some in his party had suggested the threat of a reshuffle helped ensure Johnson's plans for a tax rise to tackle a crisis in health and social care got party backing after it was widely criticised for hurting the lowest earners the most.
Critics accused Mr Johnson of choosing Wednesday to overshadow the opposition Labour Party's planned vote in parliament on the government's decision to scrap extra support for low-income families.
But some Conservative lawmakers said it had been simply long overdue. One lawmaker, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the cabinet as a boat which was "appallingly encrusted with barnacles".
In other moves, Amanda Milling was ousted as Tory party co-chairwoman just weeks before the Conservative conference.
Oliver Dowden moves from culture secretary to replace Ms Milling as co-chairman of the Tory Party, as well as holding the title Minister without Portfolio.
Nadine Dorries, a best-selling author and former star of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here, becomes Culture Secretary in what critics perceived as a move by Mr Johnson to ramp up the so-called “culture war”.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan was promoted to replace Ms Truss as International Trade Secretary and Steve Barclay succeeded Mr Gove as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and minister for the Cabinet Office.