By Charlotte King
Following various Brexit-related ministerial resignations, the Government filled any and all vacant ministerial positions on Thursday last week, resulting in all ministerial roles being filled for the first time since March 13 2019.
The most significant assignment is James Cleverly as the new Junior Brexit Minister. The MP for Braintree happily accepted his selection, tweeting he is “really pleased” to support the Government in delivering Brexit. However, one of the more surprising developments is the selection of Kevin Foster, MP for Torbay, as the new Junior Welsh Minister. Foster has filled the vacancy caused by Nigel Adams’ resignation which came early last week following May’s decision to enter talks with Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn. Foster has also been selected as Assistant Government Whip.
Justin Tomlinson has been chosen to be the new Disabilities Minister, a position which was previously empty for three weeks following Sarah Newton’s resignation on March 13. Early last week, it came to light that the Shadow Minister for Disabled People, Marsha De Cordova, had written to Theresa May and demanded the vacancy be filled. The PM has come under much criticism for leaving the role of Disabilities Minister vacant for so long, with some arguing it is reflective of the current administration’s ‘obsession’ with Brexit at the expense of citizens’ wellbeing.
The position for Junior Work and Pensions Minister was also filled last Thursday by Will Quince. Quince previously resigned from his role as Parliamentary Private Secretary for Gavin Williamson, Secretary of Defence in December 2018 in opposition to the PM’s withdrawal agreement. Finally, Andrew Stephenson, MP for Pendle in Lancashire, has also been selected as a new minister within the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.
According to the Institute for Government think-tank, Theresa May has currently lost more ministers than any other Prime Minister in modern history. According to the Financial Times, May has lost more ministers than Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown did combined who overall spent over 22 years in office; May has been in office since July 2016.
The Brexit department alone has seen the resignation of eight ministers between now and 2016, and of the 29 resignations which have occurred throughout May’s premiership so far, 21 have been due to political rather than personal reasons and 19 ministers have resigned over Brexit specifically.
Gavin Freeguard, an employee at the Institute for Government, stated, “It’s pretty extraordinary…We are in uncharted territory when it comes to numbers. [Resignations are at their] highest since 1979 and possible during the entire 20th century”.
The appointment of these five new ministers was not the smoothest of transitions; numerous MPs have indicated that Number 10 approached them and asked them to fill some of the ministerial vacancies but they turned the offer down, presumably in light of the arguably precarious state of May’s government at the moment.
Ultimately, the rate at which Theresa May has seen ministerial resignations over Brexit over her time in office is reflective of how negotiating leaving the EU has created deep divisions within the Conservative Party. The supposed struggle to fill all vacant ministerial positions last week further conveys how May has her work set out for her to keep her party together.
* Disclaimer: All information was correct at the time of writing.