Could there be another Boris Cabinet reshuffle?
Jeremy Hunt addresses Boris Johnson's Peppa Pig comments
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Boris Johnson suffered a significant blow to his political standing on Monday, after he faced criticism for a rambling speech to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). MPs also only narrowly backed changes to the Government’s social care plan. The Prime Minister’s recent actions are said to be causing “jitters” among Conservative Party MPs, with one Westminster source claiming the PM’s team is “packing too much in”. Some are calling for serious change, such as a Cabinet reshuffle to change the Tory leader’s fortunes.
Mr Johnson carried out the second significant reshuffle of his majority Government from September 15 to 18.
The reshuffle saw key members of the Cabinet leave the Government, including former education secretary Gavin Williamson, and former justice secretary Robert Buckland.
There were seven new additions to the Cabinet, including Nadhim Zahawi, who was made the new Education Secretary and Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who was made the new International Trade Secretary.
The PM’s first reshuffle took place in February 2020; just 18 months previous.
Senior Tories are calling on the PM to reshuffle his key Downing Street team, according to the FT.
The calls from senior Tories come after a rambling speech at the CBI annual conference intensified worries about policy missteps and deteriorating relations with MPs.
Mr Johnson’s address on Monday was labelled as clumsy, with many saying it was a sign he is struggling to cope with his workload and may need more support at Number 10.
The PM lost his place during the address for around 30 seconds, referenced the children’s cartoon character Peppa Pig, and imitated a petrol car.
The Labour party described the speech as “shambolic”.
An MP told the FT: “Bojo has lost his mojo.
“There’s a mixture of anger and despair but the real frustration is with the [Number 10] operation. It’s amateurish.”
Mr Johnson was asked about his performance by ITV, after the speech.
In response, he said: “People got the vast majority of the points I wanted to make and I thought it went over well.”
However, many have been quick to comment on his performance, particularly as compared to his usual speeches where he is praised for his delivery.
The BBC reported a senior Downing Street insider as saying “there is a lot of concern inside the building about the PM”.
The source added: “It’s just not working.
“The Cabinet needs to wake up and demand serious changes otherwise it’ll keep getting worse.
“If they don’t insist, he just won’t do anything about it.”
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Boris Johnson also faced significant Tory revolt over social care reform on Monday evening.
In the crucial vote on his social care reform, the Government only narrowly won the vote, despite a Conservative Party majority.
The vote passed with 272 votes to 246 – with a number of Tories abstaining.
Conservatives pointed to recent missteps by the Government, including a U-turn over reform of parliamentary standards, the chaotic announcement of a railway investment package and rising numbers of migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats.
One MP told the FT: “The PM isn’t surrounded by people — be that cabinet ministers or advisers — able to challenge him effectively and point out when he is heading in the wrong direction.”
So far, Downing Street has declined to comment on the situation, but many ministers and officials who work closely beside the PM have said he is suffering from a severe cold.
Another Conservative said: “I think he’s had a cold bordering on flu for some time.
“I don’t think he read the [CBI] speech and was ad-libbing.
“He should be at home with a Lemsip and hot water bottle.”
Despite Mr Johnson’s recent performance being criticised, very few Tories expect an imminent party leadership challenge.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been hailed as a potential future successor, but many Tories do not believe he or anyone else currently has the power and authority to immediately take down Mr Johnson.
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