Liz Truss streamlines Downing Street in shift for nimbler government

Rishi Sunak supporters are axed from Cabinet, but five leadership rivals are installed to tackle Britain's economic woes

The new front line of British politics, with Prime Minister Liz Truss, centre, flanked by Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, left, and Foreign Secretary James Cleverly. AFP
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The new British prime minister Liz Truss has instigated a major clear-out of Downing Street officials, bringing in a fresh team to steer the country through its economic crisis.

Ms Truss has swept out powerful policy units and many civil servants in what she hopes will become a streamlined operation.

She has also assembled a “Cabinet of chums” with the sacking of Rishi Sunak supporters, but one that she hopes will remain unified in tackling fearsome economic headwinds.

Liz Truss's first Cabinet - in pictures

The majority of Boris Johnson’s allies have been removed and a tranche of 20-something advisers appointed to senior roles in what is hoped will be a nimble unit that avoids the indiscretions of their predecessors.

Dozens of civil servants have also been moved out of Number 10 into the Cabinet Office with that department’s authority, now under Nadhim Zahawi, increased considerably.

The policy-making team for government will now become the Economic and Domestic Affairs Secretariat, providing recommendations to steer Britain through its current difficulties.

But there are questions over the governmental experience of the new appointments. The critical post of Chief of Staff has gone to Mark Fullbrook, an established political campaigner, but one who has no experience of a government role.

The chief policy adviser, his deputy and the political secretary are all in their 20s, and will have to bring vigour to match Ms Truss’s long work days.

Central government power could be further destabilised if Ms Truss decides to remove the Cabinet Secretary Simon Case and National Security Adviser Stephen Lovegrove.

The dismissal of Rishi Sunak's Cabinet supporters was fast and brutal on Tuesday night. Only half an hour after Ms Truss entered Downing Street, she went to Parliament where she sacked Dominic Raab, Grant Shapps, George Eustice and Steve Barclay.

She appointed two of her closest allies, Kwasi Kwarteng as chancellor and Therese Coffey as deputy prime minister and health secretary.

Downing Street’s response to accusations of a mass Mr Sunak expulsion was met with the riposte that five leadership contenders were now in the Cabinet.

This included rising star Kemi Badenoch, international trade secretary, who was an impressive candidate in the leadership race and the “One Nation” Tory liberal Tom Tugendhat, security minister, who came fifth in the contest.

Penny Mordaunt, who may well have become prime minister if she had not been pipped to second spot by Ms Truss, was given the task of getting tax cuts through Parliament as Leader of the House of Commons.

It is also a Cabinet of unprecedented diversity, with the four Great Offices of State held either by ethnic minorities or women or both.

While there will be a many ministerial appointments on Wednesday and Thursday, with junior Mr Sunak supporters getting some reward, there is some grumbling that the prime minister is following Mr Johnson’s policy of rewarding loyalty over competence.

The five leadership Cabinet members go a long way to counter that. However, with Mr Sunak securing the votes of 137 MPs in the final voting round, there is a core of anti-Truss members who could cause trouble if things go wrong.

As recent history has taught the country, you can never write-off the potential of a Tory leadership challenge.

As a further sign of the disruption and uncertainty that has gripped British politics since the Brexit referendum in 2016, the only Cabinet member to survive from David Cameron’s premiership is now the person leading the country, Ms Truss.

Updated: September 07, 2022, 1:58 PM