Why Liz Truss’s cabinet of loyalists may not bode well for the future

The new PM has rewarded her closest allies with top posts in her government alienating supporters of her main rival

One truism of a new prime minister choosing their first cabinet is that this is the easiest appointments they will make, made from a position of strength. But such a set-piece moment can also sow the seeds of troubles to come – particularly, it could be argued, in the way Liz Truss has gone about the task.

Before Truss was confirmed as the new Conservative leader, several party grandees urged her to avoid what they called Boris Johnson’s mistake of basing cabinet appointments purely on loyalty.

The new prime minister has perhaps been slightly less reliant on open sycophancy as a gauge of suitability for office. But it is striking how her inaugural cabinet seemingly contains almost no ministers who supported Rishi Sunak in the Tory leadership race.

Every new PM is “entitled to reward supporters”, as one of Tuesday’s more embittered resignation letters, from the former veterans’ minister Johnny Mercer, put it.

Similarly, prime ministers have a natural tendency to lean towards those they already know and trust, particularly as they adjust to the burdens of Downing Street. But it is notable how uniformly the top of Truss’s cabinet is a mix of friends, former colleagues and ideological soulmates. But most of all, supporters.

Of the big jobs, the new chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, is a longtime ally from the “Singapore-on-Thames” low-regulation wing of the party, while James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, was a Foreign Office colleague as well as being a fellow east of England MP.

The final big job, home secretary, has gone to Suella Braverman, an even more fervent small-state Tory than Truss. Perhaps most leaned on of all will be Thérèse Coffey, the new health secretary and deputy prime minister, a particularly close friend of Truss, and another near-constituency neighbour.

For a leader selected in the first part of the contest by fewer than a third of Conservative MPs, there might have seemed a virtue in Truss trying to appeal to as wide a base of parliamentary support as possible.


And with the country approaching a winter that will be, at best, one of the most difficult in living memory and at worst a potential humanitarian crisis, some might argue for the value of experienced and tested ministers.

Truss has, however, found no role for Sunak or a series of former big beasts who supported him in the leadership race, including Sajid Javid, Michael Gove, Steve Barclay, Grant Shapps, Dominic Raab and George Eustice.

Gove pre-emptively played down prospects of a job while others, like Javid, reportedly refused smaller ministries. But it is a decent bet that most or all would have accepted a more significant job if asked.

As well as loyalty and familiarity, Truss has mainly picked her team from the right of the party; with critics noting they are largely from the same low tax, small state, net zero-sceptical constituency to which she made her pitch to members.

It was not all such one-way traffic. While Braverman was handed a top job, another enthusiastic culture warrior who might have felt her tilt at the leadership entitled her to a big ministry, Kemi Badenoch, was tipped for education but has ended up with the less high-profile gig of international trade.

Nadine Dorries was the most loyal of Johnson loyalists, and could have been receptive to staying on as culture secretary. But she has departed, with a possible peerage from the outgoing prime minister on the cards.

Similarly, Truss initially offered the climate change brief to a leading green-minded Tory MP, Chris Skidmore, but he declined because it would not have cabinet status.

Such rejected olive branches are likely to matter little to Conservative MPs, who will look instead at the list of actual ministers and most likely conclude that if you are on the one nation wing of the party, let alone a Sunak supporter, your prospects are bleak.

This takes in a lot of MPs, including a decent number of influential former ministers. They will be loyal for now. But if Truss falters, the sheer number banished to the sidelines could make her life very difficult indeed.


Peter Walker Political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Liz Truss cabinet predictions: who could be in and who would lose out?
Analysis: Kwasi Kwarteng and Thérèse Coffey could be among the big winners if Truss becomes PM

Jessica Elgot Chief political correspondent

15, Aug, 2022 @2:00 PM

Article image
The Guardian view on Liz Truss’s cabinet: diverse but dogmatic | Editorial
Editorial: The prime minister has assembled a team based on personal loyalty and narrow ideology. She will soon need to broaden her horizons


07, Sep, 2022 @5:30 PM

Article image
Windfall tax: which cabinet ministers are for and against it?
A number of ministers have spoken out against the policy in highly unusual displays of dissent

Ben Quinn

23, May, 2022 @12:28 PM

Article image
Liz Truss culls cabinet on first day as loyalists and allies get top jobs
New PM also pledges to urgently tackle energy crisis with plans to freeze bills at about £2,500 a year expected within days

Pippa Crerar Political editor

06, Sep, 2022 @8:39 PM

Article image
Is Sunak’s cabinet representative of the nation it governs?
New PM said he would ‘unite our country’ but do his ministerial appointments reflect population?

Pamela Duncan and Carmen Aguilar García

26, Oct, 2022 @5:16 PM

Article image
Hunt and Cleverly keep jobs and Braverman back as home secretary in Sunak’s reshuffle
Dominic Raab appointed deputy PM and justice secretary with Jacob Rees-Mogg and Brandon Lewis among departures

Jessica Elgot, Pippa Crerar, Aubrey Allegretti and Rowena Mason

25, Oct, 2022 @5:12 PM

Article image
Truss 2, Kwarteng 164: wide variance in ministers’ declared meetings
Analysis also finds Priti Patel was only minister to register receiving hospitality at Tory party conference

Jessica Elgot Chief political correspondent

11, Aug, 2022 @6:24 PM

Article image
Scary Tory clown squad play government in alternate dimensions | John Crace
While Radon Liz and Kamikwasi Kwarteng set quantum dates for fiscal steadiness, Suella Braverman was talking up a coup

John Crace

04, Oct, 2022 @7:22 PM

Article image
Truss axes national security council, sparking ‘talking-shop’ concerns
Labour says new merged foreign policy council could reduce Whitehall policy-makers’ focus on security

Dan Sabbagh and Rowena Mason

23, Sep, 2022 @6:53 PM

Article image
UK’s four great offices of state may soon not feature a white man for first time
Liz Truss expected to make James Cleverly foreign secretary, Suella Braverman home secretary and Kwasi Kwarteng chancellor

Aina J Khan

05, Sep, 2022 @7:17 PM