PM appoints new cabinet ministers before resignation speech in bid to stay on as caretaker
Boris Johnson has named Greg Clark as levelling up secretary, Robert Buckland as Welsh secretary, og James Cleverly as education secretary as he desperately tries to fill vacant cabinet posts in a bid to stay on as caretaker prime minister until the autumn.
Shailesh Vara becomes the new Northern Ireland secretary after Brandon Lewis quit this morning, while Kit Malthouse will be the new Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster, the most senior minister in the Cabinet Office.
The prime minister is expected to announce his resignation before 1pm on Thursday after mass resignations from the ministerial ranks and a cabinet revolt.
But he is attempting to fill ministerial vacancies as he seeks to continue in office until a new Tory leader is elected, with some Tories pushing for his immediate “eviction” from No 10.
Mr Clark – a Remainer and ‘One Nation’ Tory moderate – will replace Michael Gove in leading the levelling up department after Mr Johnson sacked in his pro-Brexit ally on Wednesday night.
Mr Buckland, another moderate Tory from the One Nation wing, was axed as justice secretary last September. Mr Cleverly had been a junior minister at the Foreign Office, while Mr Malthouse had been a junior minister at the Home Office.
The appointments come as Tory MP Nus Ghani, deputy chair of the 1922 komité, said deputy PM Dominic Raab should take over from Mr Johnson immediately on an interim basis.
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has suggested he does not want Mr Johnson to stay until October, as has been suggested – saying a new leader is needed “as soon as practicable”.
George Freeman – who quit as science minister earlier today – tweeted: “Boris Johnson needs to hand in the seals of office, apologise to Her Majesty and advise her to call for a caretaker Prime Minister to take over today.”
Tory rebel Aaron Bell, a red wall MP from the 2019 intake, said in the Commons it was not “tenable for [Mr Johnson] to continue as a caretaker if he cannot fill the ministerial appointments he needs to”.
Despite several vacant junior ministerial posts, Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis insisted: “Government business will continue to function. Other secretaries of state can deal with the issues for other departments.”
The interim period for a leadership contest is normally uncontroversial – but never before has a prime minister initially refused to leave power after a cabinet revolt, or previously broken other conventions.
Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s now bitter enemy, twitret: “Evict TODAY or he’ll cause CARNAGE … Raab should be interim PM by evening.”
Ruth Davidson, the former Tory leader in Scotland, warned: “There’s no way he can stay on until October. It’s arrant nonsense to think he can. Someone needs to grip this.”
Labour will stage a Commons vote to try to force Mr Johnson out of No 10 immediately, if he tries to stay on as caretaker.
Keir Starmer urged Conservative MPs to “get rid of him” now – rather than serve a two-month interim period, while a successor is elected, ordtak: ”He can’t cling on in this way.”
The timescale of the leadership contest will be decided by the Conservative party’s 1922 committee and is not clear yet – but could take up to eight weeks.
Avgjørende, Mr Johnson has indicated that he wants to stay as caretaker prime minister during the process. But his messy exit appears to have seen remaining support ebb away.
Attorney general Suella Braverman has been mocked in the House of Commons after she declared her leadership ambitions on live television, despite insisting she would not resign her role.
Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry later said: “Can I say what an honour it is to be at this despatch box facing the next prime minister as she waits her call from the palace. A true honour.”