Sunak’s new dawn in Whitehall
October 6th, 2023
Rishi Sunak has presided over a significant overhaul of key Whitehall departments, alongside his first mini-reshuffle, in a bid to reboot his premiership after a shaky first 100 days in office.
Three departments have emerged from the former Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to align with Sunak’s priorities in No10 and honour a previous pledge to carve out a specific place for energy in the Whitehall structure. The refreshed Whitehall will include a Department for Energy Security, a Department for Business and Trade, and a Department for Science, Innovation and Technology. This move is aimed at embedding the Prime Minister’s long-held belief that science and innovation are integral to future growth into the heart of government machinery.
A number of Conservative MPs have been quick to question whether this move will bring about the revival in electoral fortunes that the Prime Minister is seeking, with polls continuing to reflect a gloomy outlook for the Party. That said, Chris Skidmore, former Chair of the Net Zero Review, has welcomed the move to create a body dedicated to energy and net zero, hailing it as a clear sign that the government recognises the coordinated effort required to achieve ambitious climate targets. Labour have pointed out that the creation of a new department focusing on energy amounts to a return to the Department for Energy and Climate Change, previously scrapped under Theresa May’s government.
Rather than bringing fresh faces into the Cabinet fold, the majority of appointments in this mini-reshuffle have gone to existing Secretaries of State. There has not been a sacking in sight, despite rumours that Dominic Raab’s position at the Cabinet table was looking precarious amid ongoing allegations of bullying behaviour towards staff.
Meanwhile, the former Minister for Housing and Planning, Lucy Frazer, has received a promotion to the role of Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, with ‘digital’ now omitted from the brief. Former Trade Minister Greg Hands has replaced Nadhim Zahawi as Conservative Party Chairman, following the latter’s recent sacking.
Grant Shapps has retained his position as a central player in government, with his appointment as Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero – a central policy area for Rishi Sunak’s government. Despite Michael Gove, Sunak’s rumoured first choice, turning down the role to focus on levelling up, Michelle Donelan has accepted the new role of Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology. She takes with her the digital element of her portfolio at the former DCMS. Meanwhile, Kemi Badenoch, the Prime Minister’s erstwhile leadership rival, takes on an expanded brief as Secretary of State in the newly-created Department for Business and Trade.
New Cabinet Positions
- Rt Hon Kemi Badenoch MP as Secretary of State for Business and Trade, and President of the Board of Trade
- Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP as Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero
- Rt Hon Michelle Donelan MP as Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology
- Rt Hon Lucy Frazer MP as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
- Rt Hon Greg Hands MP as Minister without Portfolio in the Cabinet Office (Party Chair)