PM to reward Liam Fox for playing nicely in Brexit battle… but others face punishment

Written by David Singleton on 13 May 2016 in Diary

Reshuffle rumours swirl as Michael Gove becomes latest Brexiteer to lash out.

David Cameron is expected to use a reshuffle to reunify his warring party after the EU referendum – with Liam Fox and Boris Johnson among the main beneficiaries.

Fox turned down a junior government role in 2014 but has remained close to George Osborne and other senior Tories ever since. He is expected to be offered something more substantial in a reshuffle soon after June 23, possibly replacing Chris Grayling as Leader of the House.

The Sun reports that senior government sources said Fox was among a host of Brexiteers who will be rewarded for their "measured tone" during the campaign so far. Others include the well-behaved pro-Brexit ministers Andrea Leadsom and James Wharton.

But Cameron is said to be agonising over what to do about Boris Johnson. The former London mayor has been notably less restrained than many during the Brexit battle, but the prime minister may have to cave into backbench pressure to elevate Johnson to a senior cabinet job nevertheless.

According to the Westminster rumour mill, Johnson could take the post of health secretary with Jeremy Hunt being moved to the transport brief. Hunt recently raised eyebrows among colleagues when he said publicly that his current role was "likely to be my last big job in politics".

Other Brexiteers could be punished for disloyalty during the referendum campaign, with defence minister Penny Mordaunt thought to be at the front of the queue for a demotion.

Mordaunt was seen by Downing Street as a rising star – until the referendum debate got under way. She recently infuriated Number 10 when she accused work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb of "cynically" dragging a rise in unemployment into the EU debate. She also vocally rejected David Cameron’s claim that leaving the EU would heighten the risk of war.

Michael Gove has also infuriated pro-EU Tories by suggesting doctors could be given pay rises if Britain votes to leave the union – on the same day as junior doctors were on strike.

And the justice secretary shows no sign of cooling down his rhetoric. In the new issue of The House magazine, Gove launches an outspoken attack on the "disappointing" deal David Cameron struck to keep Britain in the EU. He also claims the Remain camp are rattled by the polls and suffering from a sense of "establishment entitlement".

The justice secretary states: "It seems to me that if you’ve got basic common sense plus enthusiasm amongst Leave campaigners, versus a sense of establishment entitlement plus a lack of enthusiasm on the Remain side, then there’s no reason to believe that Remain are on course to win. Quite the opposite."


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