New Brexit bill on agenda as Boris seeks to reshape party
The mini-reshuffle is expected to fill vacant posts, retaining most of the team in the last government, including the three Indian-origin ministers: Priti Patel (home secretary), Alok Sharma (international development secretary) and Rishi Sunak (chief secretary, Treasury).Updated: Dec 16, 2019 19:25 IST
Armed with a landslide win in Thursday’s election, Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday set in motion his plans for a new-look government and party with a mini-reshuffle and calling on his 365 MPs to reshape the Conservative party to deliver for new voters.
The mini-reshuffle is expected to fill vacant posts, retaining most of the team in the last government, including the three Indian-origin ministers: Priti Patel (home secretary), Alok Sharma (international development secretary) and Rishi Sunak (chief secretary, Treasury).
There is a buzz in Westminster that Sunak, who stood in for Johnson in television debates and was one of the leading spokespersons during the election campaign, may be elevated to a cabinet rank. His rise within the party and government has been rapid since being first elected in 2015.
A bigger ministerial expansion is expected soon after the Brexit deadline of January 31.
Brexit is the immediate focus of parliament’s agenda before Christmas, with the Queen’s speech (equivalent to President’s address to India’s parliament) due on Thursday, and the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) to be introduced in the House of Commons on Friday.
The WAB will turn the Brexit withdrawal agreement, which is a draft international treaty reached by the previous Johnson government with Brussels in October, into UK law and will give the government permission to ratify it.
Asked if the WAB would be identical to that introduced by Johnson before the election, a Downing Street spokesman said: “You will have to wait for it to be published, but it will reflect the agreement that we made with the EU on our withdrawal.”
He said Johnson had now cleared the publication of the Intelligence and Security Committee’s controversial report on alleged Russian involvement in British politics. It was withheld despite demands that it be published before the election.
Johnson is due to meet over 100 new party MPs on Monday evening, and exhort them to deliver for the large number of voters who voted for the first time for the party, particularly in north England. The idea is to seek to change the party and politics for the better, his aides said.
Meanwhile, intense criticism of the Labour leadership under Jeremy Corbyn mixed with soul-searching for the reasons for the party’s major defeat. There is an increasing belief that alleged biased reporting by BBC and other news organisations also contributed to the defeat.