Boris Johnson has handed a peerage to Nicky Morgan so she can stay on as culture secretary – despite standing down as an MP in the election.
Mrs Morgan announced she could not commit to a five-year term as an MP in October and looked forward to being at “home far more” – but is now back in the Cabinet following a post-election mini reshuffle.
The prime minister has also appointed Simon Hart, a former chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, to replace Alun Cairns as Welsh secretary.
An environment minister role is still up for grabs, after Zac Goldsmith was ousted from parliament by voters in Richmond Park last Thursday night.
The reshuffle comes ahead of the introduction of the PM’s EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill on Friday. It could be debated at first and second reading in one day, if Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle agrees to the timetable.
A bigger post-Brexit reshuffle is reportedly on the cards for February, when Jacob Rees-Mogg may struggle to keep his job as Commons leader after criticising Grenfell Tower victims for their response to the fatal fire.
On Monday morning, MPs headed from their constituencies to Westminster to learn the ropes ahead of being sworn in later this week.
Many of the new Conservative MPs come from areas in the North and the Midlands – some of which have never had a Tory representative.
After posing for the traditional “family photo” of MPs returned after an election, Mr Johnson told his colleagues they were “here to get things done”.
Ms Morgan said she was “delighted” to keep her job as culture secretary, quipping in a tweet: “It turns out that leaving the cabinet is harder than leaving the EU.”
But former shadow culture secretary Chris Bryant was not impressed, accusing her of sticking “two fingers up to democracy”.
The Labour MP said: “It stinks. You abandon your constituents, eschew the tough work of representing a constituency but remain in the cabinet.”
Other appointments made in the reshuffle include:
- Anne-Marie Trevelyan – defence minister
- Jeremy Quin – junior minister at the Cabinet Office
- David TC Davies – junior minister at the Wales Office and a whip
- James Heappey – junior minister at the Ministry of Defence
- Kevin Foster – junior minister at the Home Office
- Robin Walker – junior minister at the Northern Ireland Office
On Tuesday, the Commons will officially resume and is expected to re-elect Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle as the person in charge of overseeing votes and debates.
Then on Thursday a new Queen’s Speech will be read out in parliament setting out Mr Johnson’s plans for new laws over the next 12 months.
It will be a “slimmed down” official opening of parliament by Her Majesty, given the last one was just three months ago.
And when the Commons is back up and running properly on Friday, Mr Johnson will start work on ensuring Brexit happens in just over a month’s time.
He will bring back the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) which puts his Brexit deal onto the statute book for a key vote he failed to win in October under the previous crop of MPs.
Given his large majority of 80, and claim that all Tory MPs back his deal, the prime minister should win the vote comfortably and keep the UK on course to leave the EU on 31 January.
It will still have to progress through another few hurdles in the Commons and House of Lords before becoming law.
Over on Labour’s side, MPs considering running for the leadership are still thinking about whether they should formally bid to replace Jeremy Corbyn as leader after last week’s disastrous election result for the party.
Two frontrunners, shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey and shadow education secretary Angela Rayner, have discussed running on a joint ticket as leader and deputy, according to The Guardian.
Other possible contenders such as shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer have not ruled themselves out of the race yet.
But the leadership race has already been hit by scandal, after shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry accused former Labour MP Caroline Flint of “making up s***” about me”.
Ms Flint told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday that Ms Thornberry once said to a colleague she was “glad my constituents aren’t as stupid as yours”.
Ms Thornberry called it a “total and utter lie” and is threatening to take legal action unless the claim is retracted.