What would a Boris Johnson cabinet look like?

He was backed by more than half of Tory MPs and many would want a seat at the top table

Boris Johnson is in the final run-off as the firm favourite, but with backers from more than half the parliamentary party, if he wins the final ballot among the membership there will be a lot of loyalists jostling for jobs. Who would expect payback and who could expect the boot?

Who will get the big jobs?

Liz Truss

The chief secretary to the Treasury was on the drinks party and thinktank speech circuit so often in the run-up to Theresa May’s departure that many thought she was gearing up for a run herself. Instead, she was Johnson’s first cabinet backer and has consistently gone out to bat for him on the airwaves.

She has floated many economic policies that could be taken up by Johnson, including his flagship plan to cut tax and national insurance for those earning between £50,000 and £80,000, as well as slashing “nanny state” regulations.

Though she will have her eye on being Britain’s first female chancellor, other Johnson supporters have played down that prospect, suggesting she would more likely be business or education secretary.

Gavin Williamson

Williamson was sacked as defence secretary over a leak from the National Security Council and though he would probably prefer a return to the Ministry of Defence, it may be too risky for Johnson to put him there – or in any job that involves diplomacy such as foreign secretary, trade or Brexit secretary.

Some allies have suggested he could be Northern Ireland secretary, although he is very close to the DUP and therefore highly unlikely to be a trusted broker with republicans – a recipe for more deadlock in Stormont.

Returning to his most natural job – chief whip – could be seen as a demotion and a significant number of his colleagues would be likely to resist it. Leader of the House or Cabinet Office secretary could be a compromise senior role with time for politics.

Sajid Javid

Javid, the current home secretary, did not endorse Johnson in the final round after he was knocked out of the race, but he has a very good chance of being Johnson’s chancellor.

The former banker worked in George Osborne’s Treasury, was business secretary and has a moderate base in the party that Johnson would like to keep onside. He is also less queasy than others about the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, and Johnson’s team will want someone in the role who would be prepared to see that through.

Matt Hancock

Hancock, who backed Johnson in the second round of the leadership contest after dropping out of the race himself, has also had a key role in the Treasury and might have hoped he would have a shot at being chancellor.

Hancock is likely to stay in the cabinet but he may remain at health – or Johnson could move him sideways. One department that will need a new thinker is education, the area where all Tory leadership candidates have pledged to spend more because of the hammering MPs are getting over education cuts.

However, Hancock would have to contain any qualms he has about a no-deal Brexit. Johnson’s allies have made clear they do not want to have anyone in the cabinet who might run the risk of resigning if no deal looked imminent.

Dominic Raab

Johnson’s Brexiter rival in the leadership quickly endorsed him after he was eliminated in the second round. Raab could be reinstalled as Brexit secretary, having spent his campaign insisting he was on the cusp of renegotiating the backstop until he was undermined by Theresa May’s team. Johnson may be persuaded he could have another go.

Raab could also potentially go to justice, especially if Johnson has any interest in David Cameron’s old plans to rip up the Human Rights Act, a policy Raab has championed.

Michael Gove

They may be an ongoing “psychodrama” with Gove but he is likely to stay in the cabinet. Gove has been making an impact at Defra and if Johnson does decide to pursue no deal, it will be one of the departments hit the hardest.

However, several MPs said they believed Gove should be allowed to turn his hand to one of the most pressing crises that the incoming government will face, in a department desperately in need of some creativity: housing.

Geoffrey Cox

Cox was Johnson’s warm-up speaker at his launch and though he has been a crucial attorney general whose legal advice effectively broke May’s Brexit deal, he may be eyeing a promotion. Johnson might want to keep him in the legal role or even move him to Brexit secretary, though it is a move Cox has resisted before. One Johnson backer has tipped him for foreign secretary.

Priti Patel has been a key Johnson supporter and could well be in his cabinet.
Priti Patel has been a key Johnson supporter and could well be in his cabinet. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/Getty Images

Priti Patel

Patel was sacked from the cabinet for her undisclosed dealings with senior Israeli government figures but she has been a key supporter of Johnson and is a committed Brexiter who worked with him on Vote Leave. She is likely to make a return to the cabinet, though few in her old department for international development would welcome the aid sceptic back to that post.

George Osborne

A definite wildcard but the former chancellor and now editor of the Evening Standard, who backed Johnson’s bid for PM in his newspaper’s pages, is rumoured to be eyeing a return to government, perhaps via a peerage. It’s an outside bet but could he yet serve in his university friend’s cabinet?

Other key names

Johnson may want to find roles for some of his most trusted friends and allies, as well as those he worked with at City Hall. Colleagues he will want to reward include his close friend and former PPS Conor Burns, who has barely left his side during the leadership contest, his campaign manager James Wharton and his other close friends in parliament Nigel Adams and Ben Wallace.

Grant Shapps, the former Tory chair, has played a major role in the campaign running numbers for Johnson and could get a big job. Others who could be promoted are Johnson’s former City Hall colleagues James Cleverly and Kit Malthouse, the man behind the Malthouse compromise of pursuing “alternative arrangements” for the Irish border or negotiating a “managed no deal”. Malthouse could be a wildcard pick for Brexit secretary.

From the ERG, Johnson may be looking for roles for Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker, but they could also cause trouble quickly if they believe he is going soft on the 31 October leaving date.

Who is out?

As firm opponents of no deal, the justice secretary, David Gauke, the chancellor, Philip Hammond, the business secretary, Greg Clark, and the international development secretary, Rory Stewart, are likely to leave government.

Liam Fox backed Jeremy Hunt and Johnson may feel it is time for someone new in the international trade role, and likewise for Karen Bradley in the Northern Ireland job, where she has been unable to resolve the impasse at Stormont.

Jobs in the balance

Keeping Amber Rudd onboard and in the cabinet would probably be appealing to Johnson, though their proposed “Bamber” alliance ended in anger after the work and pensions secretary could not sign up to his plan to pursue no deal in October – even though many of Johnson’s moderate supporters do not believe he would go through with it.

Penny Mordaunt backed Hunt but is known to be extremely keen to keep her job in defence, where she has only recently replaced Williamson.

Johnson would have a difficult time finding a role for his leadership rival Jeremy Hunt, currently foreign secretary, that did not seem like a demotion, apart perhaps from home secretary.

Others that have supported Johnson’s campaign but for whom it is difficult to see a role are Chris Grayling, James Brokenshire and Stephen Barclay.


Jessica Elgot Chief political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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