Boris Johnson gives new Cabinet ‘half-time team talk’ - telling them to ‘spit out the orange peel’ and work together

·5-min read

Boris Johnson has given his new Cabinet a "half-time pep talk" at their first meeting, telling them: "This is the moment when we spit out the orange peel" and work together.

The Prime Minister chaired the meeting on Friday morning after culling several members of his top team.

He told them: "This is, if you like, the half-time pep talk. This is the moment when we spit out the orange peel, we adjust our gum shields and our scrum caps.

"And we get out on to the pitch in the knowledge that we're going to have to do it together and we're going to have to do it as a team."

Mr Johnson told his new-look Cabinet they had all made it there on merit but encouraged them now is the time to redouble their efforts, as he joked about the number of delivery rooms he has been in.

Sat around the Cabinet table with Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to his right and Chancellor Rishi Sunak to his left, Mr Johnson said: "I want to thank you all because you're all here on your merits because you've worked incredibly hard, but I want you to work even harder now.

Mr Johnson was flanked by Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to his right and Chancellor Rishi Sunak (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Mr Johnson was flanked by Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to his right and Chancellor Rishi Sunak (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

"I'm just thinking about delivery, I've seen a few delivery rooms, probably seen as many delivery rooms as anybody in this... Apart from the exception of Jacob (Rees-Mogg).

"I know that delivery normally involves a superhuman effort by at least one person in the room. But there are plenty of other people in that room who are absolutely indispensable to that successful outcome."

Dominic Raab, demoted to Justice Secretary, was sat opposite the Prime Minister around the Cabinet table, as was Mr Raab's replacement as Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, and new Housing Secretary Michael Gove.

The bloodletting which saw three Cabinet ministers sacked from the Government on Wednesday continued in the lower ranks of the administration, with some lengthy frontbench careers ended at a stroke.

Former Cabinet minister John Whittingdale – who had been serving as media minister – was the highest-profile casualty, while Nick Gibb’s lengthy tenure in the Department for Education was also brought to an end.

The PM called on his new-look team to ‘work harder’ (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
The PM called on his new-look team to ‘work harder’ (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Jesse Norman, Caroline Dinenage, Luke Hall, Justin Tomlinson, Graham Stuart, James Duddridge and Matt Warman also lost their ministerial jobs.

Penny Mordaunt was replaced as Paymaster General by former solicitor general Michael Ellis, but picked up a role at the Department for International Trade.

Conor Burns, who resigned from government in May 2020 after an investigation found he threatened a company chairman over a financial dispute with his father, returns to the front benches.

Mr Burns, who was suspended from Parliament for seven days following an investigation into his conduct, has been made minister of state in the Northern Ireland Office.

Alex Chalk has been appointed Solicitor General while Chloe Smith has been made a minister of state at the Department for Work and Pension and Robin Walker goes to the Department for Education.

Liz Truss was one of the big winners, being promoted to Foreign Secretary (PA Wire)
Liz Truss was one of the big winners, being promoted to Foreign Secretary (PA Wire)

A shake-up of Treasury ministers saw Lucy Frazer become Financial Secretary and Helen Whately become Exchequer Secretary.

At the Department of Health and Social Care, Gillian Keegan is a minister of state while Maggie Throup is a junior minister.

Victoria Atkins moves from the Home Office to become minister of state at the Ministry of Justice but will remain responsible for the Afghan resettlement scheme and Operation Warm Welcome.

Lee Rowley has been made a junior minister at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and a Government whip, while Amanda Solloway also heads to the whips’ office.

Neil O’Brien – who was Mr Johnson’s “levelling up” adviser – has been made a junior minister at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Among the other appointments, Mr Johnson’s former ministerial aide Trudy Harrison is now a junior minister in the Department for Transport.

Downing Street said Mr Raab would continue to play an “important senior role” in Government despite his demotion from foreign secretary.

He was seen as one of the big losers in the reshuffle.

The announcement that he was to be given the title Deputy Prime Minister was seen as little more than a consolation after losing one of the “great offices of state”.

Downing Street refused to be drawn on reports that Mr Raab had resisted the change during a tense conversation with the Prime Minister on Wednesday.

However, Mr Johnson’s official spokesman insisted it had been a “planned move” and that the Esher and Walton MP’s new title reflected the Prime Minister’s continuing trust in him.

“This formalises Dominic Raab’s position as the Prime Minister’s deputy – he will stand in for him at PMQs; it demonstrates his seniority within Government and the trust the Prime Minister places with him,” the spokesman said.

“You can expect him to be involved in cross-governmental work when that is necessitated. It is clear he will play an important senior role in Government.”

Mr Raab’s replacement by Ms Truss followed criticism of his handling of the Afghanistan crisis and his delay in returning from his holiday in Crete after Kabul fell to the Taliban.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Ms Truss’s replacement as International Trade Secretary, was criticised by Labour over past tweets denying climate change.

“We aren’t getting hotter, global warming isn’t actually happening,” one message from 2012 said.

Shadow international trade secretary Emily Thornberry said “at least the last Trade Secretary only hired climate change deniers”, in an apparent reference to former Australian premier Tony Abbott, who is a trade adviser.

In a letter to Ms Trevelyan, she added: “Whatever your past statements on this issue, you have an opportunity to make a difference in a key area before Cop26.”

In Wednesday’s Cabinet changes, Gavin Williamson was fired as education secretary following his handling of the exams fiasco during the coronavirus crisis, while Robert Buckland lost his job as justice secretary and Robert Jenrick was sacked as communities secretary.

Ben Wallace, who survived as Defence Secretary, insisted the Prime Minister did not sack any of his top team due to incompetence, and said the criticism of Mr Williamson in the media had been “unfair”.

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