Night of the blunt knives as Theresa May fails to move big beasts

Written by David Singleton on 8 January 2018 in Diary

Education secretary Justine Greening was the only major cabinet departure.

Harold Macmillan’s 1962 reshuffle was famously dubbed the ‘night of the long knifes’ after the then Conservative prime minister dismissed seven members of his cabinet.

In stark contrast, Theresa May’s much-anticipated and heavily-briefed 2018 reshuffle was branded the ‘night of the blunt knives’ by one political hack and ‘night of the plastic knifes’ by another.

Meanwhile PoliticsHome editor Kevin Schofield complained: "Are we still allowed to call this a reshuffle? It's not even a shuffle."

The so-called reshuffle saw Justine Greening and Patrick McLoughlin sacked from their jobs and leaving the cabinet, while James Brokenshire stood down for health reasons. David Lidington was shifted to the Cabinet Office, while David Gauke and Karen Bradley made sideway moves to justice secretary and Northern Ireland secretary respectively.

But chancellor Philip Hammond, home secretary Amber Rudd, foreign secretary Boris Johnson, defence secretary Gavin Williamson, environment secretary Michael Gove, communities secretary Sajid Javid, transport secretary Chris Grayling, Brexit secretary David Davis and international trade secretary Liam Fox all kept their jobs.

Most intriguingly, Jeremy Hunt also remained in place as health secretary and Greg Clarke kept his job as business secretary - despite plans to shift both men.

Insiders initially suggested this was because Clark - who is said to be resisting the prime minister’s desire to curb executive pay - was not willing to accept his marching orders. Sunday Times political editor Tim Shipman quoted a Tory source saying: “Greg Clark was 100% meant to be moved. He must have kicked off and threatened all sorts. He's a real shit.”

It then emerged that Hunt had refused to budge and successfully fought to keep his job in a beefed-up department. The Times’ Sam Coates said Hunt “had been making clear for weeks that he did not want to change brief” while a Number 10 source admitted Downing Street “would not dispute that Jeremy got what he wanted”.




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