Raab demoted and Williamson sacked as PM reshuffles cabinet | Conservatives

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Dominic Raab has been demoted to the job of justice secretary but handed the title of deputy prime minister as a sweetener as Boris Johnson carries out a wide-ranging reshuffle of his top team.

The prime minister kicked off the shake-up by sacking three cabinet ministers, including removing Gavin Williamson as education secretary.

Raab had been widely tipped for a demotion after the debacle of the Kabul airlift, but he and his team were keen to avoid the sense that he was being blamed for the crisis. He and the prime minister held a prolonged face-to-face meeting in Johnson’s Commons office on Wednesday. Raab later arrived at Downing Street to see his new role announced.

Earlier, Williamson had confirmed his departure in a tweet, saying: “It has been a privilege to serve as education secretary since 2019.” He did not specify whether he had been given another post, saying only: “I look forward to continuing to support the prime minister and the government.”

The justice secretary, Robert Buckland, and the housing and communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, also announced they had been removed after meeting the prime minister on Wednesday.

Williamson had been widely tipped for the chop after a string of gaffes. A No 10 spokesperson said he had “played a key role in transforming the skills agenda as we create a high wage and high skilled economy, providing a lifetime skills guarantee for millions across the country. The prime minister is grateful for his loyalty and service.” Buckland appeared to have been moved to make way for Raab.

The home secretary, Priti Patel, also widely tipped for a move, was not seen entering Johnson’s office, where bad news is traditionally delivered. The Conservative party co-chair Amanda Milling was seen leaving Johnson’s office, however.

The prime minister’s official spokesperson had earlier said Johnson’s reshuffle would “put in place a strong and united team to build back better from the pandemic”.

The prime minister is also expected to conduct a significant reshuffle of his junior ranks, which could run into Thursday.

Johnson’s spokesperson said the reshuffle was the second part of the plan to relaunch government strategy following the winter plan for Covid announced on Tuesday. “Yesterday the PM set out his plan for managing Covid during the autumn and winter.

“But the government must also redouble our efforts to deliver on the people’s priorities. The PM will be appointing ministers this afternoon with a focus on uniting and levelling up the whole country.”

Others who could be in line to move are the environment secretary, George Eustice, and the Welsh secretary, Simon Hart.

Johnson is known to be keen to have more geographic diversity in his cabinet, who are predominantly from constituencies in the south or Midlands.

He has previously pledged to have at least one woman in the four “great offices of state”, which would mean at least one woman would be likely to be promoted should Patel be moved. The most likely candidate is Liz Truss, a favourite of Tory members, who could replace Raab.

The reshuffle will leave new ministers with only a few weeks to prepare for the Conservative party conference – and, most pressingly, for the government’s spending review, where departments have to make detailed submissions to the Treasury.

Asked whether the prime minister had discussed the job changes with his wife, Carrie Johnson, his spokesperson said no. Johnson’s former chief adviser Dominic Cummings tweeted on Wednesday morning that it would be a “Carrie reshuffle”.

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