Michael Gove has secured an astonishing return to the cabinet in Rishi Sunak’s reshuffle – just two months after calling time on his political career.
The most trusted fixer of problem departments in the Tory ranks returns to the job of levelling up secretary, the post Boris Johnson sacked him from in his dying days in office in July.
The move comes after the new prime minister stressed his commitment to the troubled levelling up agenda, in sharp contrast to the apparent disinterest of Liz Truss.
Jeremy Hunt has been re-appointed as chancellor – in a move certain to reassure the financial markets – while James Cleverly stays as foreign secretary and Oliver Dowden is the new Cabinet Office minister.
Earlier, in a ruthless clearout, Mr Sunak dismissed nine cabinet ministers – and a further two ministers attending cabinet – most of them high-profile supporters of Liz Truss.
They are; Jacob Rees-Mogg (business secretary), Kit Malthouse (education), Brandon Lewis (justice), Simon Clarke (levelling up), Chloe Smith (work and pensions), Ranil Jayawardena (environment), Robert Buckland (Wales), Jake Berry (party chair) and Wendy Morton (chief whip).
Penny Mordaunt was punished for challenging the Tory leadership favourite by being denied a promotion and remains the Commons Leader.
But the shock return of Suella Braverman as home secretary has undermined Mr Sunak’s promise to lead a government with “integrity” on his first day in No 10.
The move comes just six days after she was sacked for a security breach that broke the ministerial code, in apparent payback for Ms Braverman backing his campaign.
The arch rightwinger admitted breaching the rules by sending a policy document on an immigration shake-up from her private email to a colleague, allegedly misleading Ms Truss about it.
Mr Sunak, speaking outside No 10, promised the country: “This government will have integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level. Trust is earned. And I will earn yours.”
But Chris Bryant, the senior Labour MP said the reappointment was “cynical manoeuvring”, tweeting: “This PM’s no better than the last two.:
Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, pointed out she was being rewarded despite “breaching official ministerial rules & “dreaming” of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda”.
The move also sets up a repeat clash if Mr Sunak – like Ms Truss – seeks to loosen immigration rules to boost the economy, the root of the bust-up triggering last week’s dismissal.