A British Cabinet: A Guide For Non-Brits


Monday, August 5, 2019

Pretty much every politico knows that the UK has a new Prime Minister, bringing with him a brand new cabinet.  For non-Brits, it might be a bit difficult to understand. The new cabinet has proven to be the biggest shake up in recent years.


Theresa May wasn’t what we would define as a modern conservative. She was rather authoritarian in her views, believing in larger government, sin taxes and legislation to control behaviour. Her cabinet reflected this, with only a few true free market and small state Tories involved. This, however, was flipped by Boris Johnson. Prominent free market heroine Liz Truss was not given the coveted role as Chancellor, but received a promotion to become Secretary for International Trade. Thatcherite in waiting and prominent Johnson ally Priti Patel was gifted Home Secretary.

There has also been a big promotion for leave supporters, though the scales are still tilted in favour of remain, reflecting the ideological makeup of MPs.

In terms of social conservatism, it’s not that what you’d likely see in the Republican Party. Housing Minister Esther McVey has received a lot of criticism for her views on LGBT education, but is not even close to being the most socially conservative in the party. 

Easily the most socially conservative is Jacob Rees-Mogg, a devout Roman Catholic with six children. Rees-Mogg has strong views on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, voting largely against both. In terms of social liberalism, PM Johnson, Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove are probably on the opposite side of the scale to those mentioned previously.


A particular shock to many was when Penny Mordaunt, the Defence Secretary, was returned to the back benches. A Navy reservist, she was very popular in the position due to her support for veterans and push for higher funding. Her being let go was due to her supporting Boris Johnson’s rival, Jeremy Hunt, for the leadership bid. Mordaunt was one of the strongest Eurosceptics, so this was perhaps seen as a betrayal. On top of this, she and Johnson reportedly don’t get along, and her sacking was apparently cruel.

Jeremy Hunt also left the cabinet after nearly ten years. He was widely considered to be given a top position as a consolation prize, but refused. It was reported he was offered Defence, but he wanted his then job, Foreign Secretary, Deputy or Chancellor. Johnson refused. 

This was not the first time. Hunt was a widely unpopular Health Secretary and refused to be moved by Theresa May initially, with the then PM letting him. He did eventually move to the Foreign Office, but that took a while.

Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, is a former rival. Johnson was all set to run (and win) after Cameron’s resignation, but that changed when Gove announced his decision to stand for leadership. This is also widely seen as a conciliation move, as well as the fact Gove is seen as one of the most competent and steadfast Cabinet members.

Johnson’s allies clearly got the plum jobs. One surprise was Rees-Mogg, who would never have been considered for a front bench job previously due to his outspoken nature. He’s been an ally of Johnson for a long time, so it was clearly a thank you. Rees-Mogg was perfect for his new role as Commons Leader. Priti Patel previously left cabinet after breaking cabinet and parliamentary protocol, but returned, as did Gavin Williamson.

Membership Views:

There are widely ranging views of individual cabinet members in terms of the grassroots, notably more Eurosceptic, conservative and agitated than parliamentary members. The most popular amongst grassroots are Johnson (for his humour), Rees-Mogg (for his eccentricity and conviction) Patel (for her Thatcherite views), Geoffrey Cox (for his Brian Blessed voice and expertise), and Truss (for her popular economic views and smarts).

On the other hand, the least popular are Amber Rudd (seen as a dull Europhile) and Nicky Morgan (also seen as being too in favor of the EU).

This is by no means a perfect example, but these are the ones who are notably popular and unpopular. Views vary by ideology and personal experience, especially since not everyone in the grassroots is harmonious in their view.

This cabinet, like Trump’s, can and will change. Reshuffles usually happen once a year, but this one was considered a huge one. Some compared it to the Night of the Long Knives. 

Long standing figures were cut, especially natural May allies. Some resigned either not wanting to serve under Johnson’s administration or knowing that they could not keep on top of their brief.

It won’t be boring and non Brits should be sure to follow closely.

Sarah is a student at Lancaster University in the U.K. and is a member of the Conservative Party. She writes for several conservative blogs, including her own. Her dream is to work in the White House one day (especially in a Haley administration).

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.

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About Sarah Stook

Lancaster University

Sarah is a student at Lancaster University in the U.K. and is a member of the Conservative Party. She writes for several conservative blogs, including her own. Her dream is to work in the White House one day (especially in a Haley administration).

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