Boris Johnson‘s new cabinet meets on Thursday with 17 ministers losing their job just a day before; the true test for Johnson will be later on as he must prove that commands a majority in the House of Commons.
That Johnson will secure and hold on to a majority is anything but certain. In fact, his cabinet seemed to be more about a forthcoming electoral campaign than running the business of government. Johnson’s cabinet had dropped any pretence to being balanced and is solidly committed to Brexit, with old hardline names returning in government to manage Brexit in less than one hundred days.
Dominic Raab is the new foreign secretary, Priti Patel the new home secretary, and Sajid Javid the new chancellor. Jacob Rees-Mogg will be invested with the role of managing the Conservative party, reaching out beyond his so-called “European Research Group (ERG)” to master a majority.
The biggest surprise in this cabinet will be Michael Gove, a committed campaigner to Leave, but a long-time friend who derailed Johnson’s chances to run against Theresa May by splitting the Eurosceptic camp in 2016.
Another impressive addition to the team is a former Gove advisor and the man who run the Leave campaign, Dominic Cummings. Cummings was the man behind the “take back control” motto, the red bus, and the claim Turkey was about to accede in the EU.
Johnson’s main opponent, Jeremy Hunt, refused an offer to serve as defence secretary and will be heading for the backbenches. The International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, will also be heading home. Despite being an ardent Brexiteer, he sided with Jeremy Hunt, questioning Johnson’s legitimacy.
The team around Johnson appears more ready for elections than for the government. As he entered the most famous door in the world yesterday, Johnson noted that “no deal” would be “forced upon” the UK. He promised better schools, more productivity, more infrastructure, and made little reference to taxes and fiscal consolidation. It appears that Johnson wants to make clear, to both Brussels and his party, that he means business when he talks about “no deal.” Naturally, he reiterated that the UK is leaving the EU by October 31, “no ifs, no buts.”
Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell said that should Mr Johnson campaign on a Leave platform, Labour would campaign to Remain. Nicola Sturgeon warned Boris Johnson to give Scotland an alternative to Leave or she would move ahead with an independence referendum.
Meanwhile, Nigel Farage extended his support for Johnson’s uncompromising position in an electoral campaign and, perhaps, the possibility of an electoral pact. Farage secured a 32% share of the vote in the recent European elections, leaving the Conservative Party with 9%. It is clear that Boris Johnson has little scope for a compromise.