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Boris Johnson considering cabinet reshuffle before summer

Boris Johnson considering cabinet reshuffle before summer
PM believed to be eyeing up ‘reset moment’ in bid to save premiership

Boris Johnson is considering a cabinet reshuffle before parliament’s summer recess in a bid to shore up his leadership, according to his allies.

The prime minister is facing a renewed challenge from Conservative backbenchers following bruising local election losses, with rebel MPs saying the leadership question must be “brought to a head” soon.

By Saturday morning, the Tories had lost almost 500 council seats – including 341 in England, 63 in Scotland, and 86 in Wales – with only a couple of counts to go in England.

The Independent understands that Mr Johnson is mulling a reshuffle of his top team within a couple of months, but will not move anytime soon.

It follows reports that the prime minister will hold a shake-up before the 21 July recess in a bid to rest his administration and put in place the team that “will take us into the next election”.

A government source told the Daily Mail: “There will be a reset moment in the next couple of months. The PM will set out to the public the things they can expect us to concentrate on in the run-up to the next election. You can expect to see the cost of living at the top of that.”

Earlier on Saturday, cabinet minister Nadhim Zahawi urged Tory MPs not to move against the PM, telling Sky News: “He is an asset, absolutely.” The education secretary added: “If you look at the way that Boris cuts through in places like Nuneaton, places like Newcastle-under-Lyme, other parts of the country as well – Harrow in London.”

However, Tory MP Aaron Bell, a public critic of the prime minister, said the issue of his leadership must be “brought to a head” soon.

Mr Bell told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that it was “perfectly reasonable” for colleagues to wait for the publication of senior official Sue Gray’s report, but “we do need to bring this to a head, one way or another, so that we can draw a line under this”.

Marcus Fysh – the Tory MP for Yeovil, who has not declared his opposition to Mr Johnson – said a change of direction was needed on the economy, and that colleagues would have to discuss “whether Boris is the right person to do that”.

David Simmonds, the Tory MP for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, has said that “a change of leader” could be one way of restoring public confidence in the government, though he stopped short of calling for the prime minister to go.

Sir Roger Gale, who was the first Tory MP to declare his letter of no confidence in Mr Johnson back in December, suggested a challenge could come within as little as three weeks, telling The Independent: “There’s a tide that’s flowing that’s unstoppable. Something has got to happen.”

Another senior Tory backbencher told The Independent it was now “clearly very much in the interests of both Labour and the Liberal Democrats to keep Boris in place”, adding: “He is clearly leading us down, not up.”

There is also growing pressure on the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to provide more support with the cost of living crisis, with senior Tories questioning whether he should continue in his role if taxes are not cut.

“My view is there should be an immediate Budget,” one senior Tory figure, who favours cuts to national insurance and VAT on domestic energy bills, told The Independent.

“If we don’t fix this, if the judgement on our economic policy stays there for much longer, people will remember we didn’t help them, and that will cause lasting damage. If [Mr Sunak] doesn’t act now, then I think we’ll suffer through the summer and beyond.”

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith told The Times: “The government now has got to literally bite the bullet on this one.”

The party grandee added: “We need to cut taxes, almost certainly, to give people more room to be able to ride out the shock of the cost of living crisis.”