Johnson’s revamped cabinet cram into office – with no masks

Ministers assemble for ‘half-time pep talk’ in packed room, contradicting official advice

Boris Johnson’s new cabinet has met for the first time, assembling without masks in a packed room, as the prime minister delivered what he termed a “half-time pep talk” to his revamped team.

Photos of the meeting showed at least 30 people crammed shoulder-to-shoulder in the cabinet room, including aides and officials, none of them wearing masks, and with the windows apparently closed.

Similar images of the last meeting of Johnson’s pre-reshuffle cabinet on Tuesday prompted criticism from Labour and others, given government advice suggests people “wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed settings”, particularly if people are with those they do not normally meet.

At Friday’s meeting, Johnson was flanked by Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, and Simon Case, the cabinet secretary. Sitting opposite was Dominic Raab, who was demoted from foreign secretary to justice secretary, but was also officially made deputy prime minister.

According to the handful of media allowed in for the start of the meeting, Johnson appeared jovial, while telling his new lineup they had to deliver.

“To mix my metaphors, this is, if you like, the half-time pep talk,” Johnson said. “This is the moment when we spit out the orange peel, we adjust our gumshields and our scrum caps.

“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.”

In another convoluted metaphor, Johnson said he was “thinking about delivery”, making a pun about pregnancy – his wife, Carrie, is pregnant with their second child together.

“I’ve seen a few delivery rooms, probably seen as many delivery rooms as anybody in this … with the possible exception of Jacob [Rees-Mogg, the Commons leader, who has six children],” said Johnson.

“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.”

Johnson has at least six children of his own but refuses to discuss how many he has in total.

In the unexpectedly brutal and extensive reshuffle, which began on Wednesday, the former international trade secretary Liz Truss replaced Raab as foreign secretary, and a series of cabinet ministers were sacked.

Johnson’s spokesman refused to deny reports that Truss and Raab were engaged in a tussle for the use of Chevening, the grace-and-favour mansion in Kent traditionally used by the foreign secretary. It was shared between William Hague, the foreign secretary, and Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, under David Cameron’s coalition.

There would be “an update in due course” on who would use Chevening, the spokesman said.

The cabinet was addressed by Emily Lawson, who heads the No 10 delivery unit, about a plan for the public to be able to access data to see how far policies had progressed, he added.

Among those now absent were the former education secretary Gavin Williamson, the communities secretary Robert Jenrick, and Robert Buckland, who was sacked as justice minister to make room for Raab.

Contributor

Peter Walker Political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Who’s who in Boris Johnson’s first cabinet
The beneficiaries of the new PM’s sweeping changes to the ministerial line-up

Heather Stewart, Rowena Mason, Jessica Elgot and Peter Walker

24, Jul, 2019 @5:56 PM

Article image
What is in Boris Johnson’s Covid contingency toolbox?
Measures the prime minister could take to avoid a lockdown in England this winter

Nicola Davis and Peter Walker

10, Sep, 2021 @1:51 PM

Article image
Boris Johnson’s best party excuse is he’s even dimmer than we feared | John Crace
The prime minister runs out of road as he finally admits attending a party in his own garden

John Crace

12, Jan, 2022 @5:54 PM

Article image
What are the biggest Tory rebellions in Boris Johnson’s premiership?
Vote on plan B Covid-19 restrictions likely to see largest number yet of Conservative MPs deviating from party line

Jessica Elgot Chief political correspondent

14, Dec, 2021 @7:04 AM

Article image
Labour urges ministers to clarify 'muddle' over face masks in English shops
Shadow health secretary to request urgent question in Commons to end confusion

Kate Proctor

13, Jul, 2020 @8:55 AM

Article image
France fiasco to pingdemic U-turn: Boris Johnson’s week of chaos
In the last seven days the UK government has flailed from one controversy or misstep to the next

Peter Walker Political correspondent

23, Jul, 2021 @11:25 AM

Article image
Ministers accused of putting staff at risk by not wearing masks in Commons
Boris Johnson and most of his frontbench choose not to cover faces in packed parliamentary chamber

Aubrey Allegretti Political correspondent

18, Aug, 2021 @12:21 PM

Article image
‘One rule for them’: Boris Johnson criticised for maskless cabinet meeting
PM under fire as senior Tories forgo masks on same day he urges public to wear them in crowded spaces

Rowena Mason Deputy political editor

14, Sep, 2021 @5:53 PM

Article image
Outrage as No 10 rules out urgent inquiry into Covid mistakes
Exclusive: bereaved families are told that ‘people who would need to give evidence’ are ‘working round clock’

Robert Booth Social affairs correspondent

25, Apr, 2021 @5:00 PM

Article image
Calls for PM to be questioned by inquiry into alleged No 10 lockdown gatherings
Requests follow reports that Boris Johnson may have been present at a ‘bring your own booze’ party

Rowena Mason Deputy political editor

09, Jan, 2022 @8:33 PM