Suffolk MP wins promotion as reshuffle continues

Prime Minister Theresa May leads her first cabinet meeting of the new year at Number 10 amid an ongo

Prime Minister Theresa May leads her first cabinet meeting of the new year at Number 10 amid an ongoing reshuffle - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Suffolk MP Jo Churchill has been appointed a government whip during Theresa May’s reshuffle.

The member for Bury St Edmunds will take up the role of assistant whip at a crucial time where the government needs to enforce its will effectively to get votes passed.

Ms Churchill will play a key role in ensuring the Brexit bill is passed by persuading potential rebels to vote with the government.

Braintree MP James Cleverly has already been unveiled as the Conservative deputy chairman, and Matt Hancock, who impressed in his role as minister for digital, stepped up to become secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport.

Already today Theresa May has sacked a number of middle-ranking ministers including an MP at the centre of a sex-toy storm.

The Prime Minister faced accusations that some of her team were being “hoofed out” because they are white and male.

Despite widespread criticism of the shake-up, newly-appointed Tory chairman Brandon Lewis insisted the party is “not quite” in a mess but admitted there was a “job of work” to be done.

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Conservative MP Mark Garnier lost his job as trade minister just weeks after being cleared by an investigation into allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards a female member of staff, including asking her to buy a sex toy.

No 10 sources insisted the incident had nothing to do with his departure.

Alok Sharma was the first to be given a new ministerial job as day two of the reshuffle began, moving from housing to become Employment Minister.

Dominic Raab becomes housing minister.

Casualties in the latest round of the overhaul include Scarborough and Whitby MP Robert Goodwill, who loses his job as minister for children and families, Philip Dunne (Ludlow), who is removed as health minister, and John Hayes (South Holland and the Deepings), who is leaving the Department for Transport.

Tory backbencher Philip Davies, who sits on the Commons Women and Equalities committee, said the reshuffle had created “a legitimate concern that some people may feel they have been hoofed out or not promoted simply because they are a white male”.

He said: “It certainly does not do anyone any favours to promote people who are not ready for promotion just because of their gender or race.”

But Downing Street rejected Mr Davies’s criticism of the reshuffle, saying it was “absolutely not” the case that ministers were being chosen for the axe because they are male and white.

Mrs May’s official spokesman said: “This is about the Prime Minister putting in place the right team to tackle the challenges the country faces, whether that is on housing, improving school standards or the NHS.”

Following Mr Hunt’s reported refusal to move from health to business, the spokesman described him as “a long-serving and hard-working Health Secretary who has helped deliver an NHS which has been rated the best in the world”, adding: “He has been doing a good job and will continue to do so.”

The spokesman confirmed that the review of social care started under the Cabinet Office was being moved in its entirety to Mr Hunt’s renamed department, but said that funding would remain a responsibility for local authorities.

Mrs May’s Cabinet met for the first time since a misfired reshuffle of top jobs yesterday, which saw Justine Greening walk out as education secretary rather than accept a move to work and pensions, while Jeremy Hunt turned down the PM’s offer of the business brief, insisting instead on an expanded health and social care role.

A Tory MP, who did not wish to be named, said: “She ended the year in not a bad place, to the point where she was making a virtue of her ability to walk through fires.

“The ability to come out the other side of a burning building, which is I think the way she looked at the end of last year, isn’t enhanced by an ability to walk into a burning building deliberately.”

Jo Johnson, who was forced as universities minister to defend the controversial appointment of Toby Young to the universities regulator in an urgent question session in the Commons on Monday, has been made transport minister.

Greg Hands remains as Trade Minister.

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