BORIS Johnson has wielded the axe in a brutal Cabinet reshuffle that today saw Gavin Williamson among senior ministers to be chopped.
Williamson was widely expected to be removed as Education Secretary following a torrid pandemic beset by endless fiascoes with schools, exams and PR disasters.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland and Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick were also surprise sackings.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was locked in a meeting with the PM this afternoon and is being tipped for demotion.
The PM is overhauling his top team in a long-awaited shake-up ahead of the Conservative Party conference in a few weeks.
Ambitious MPs desperate to climb the ladder were standing by their phones as the Westminster rumour mill went into overdrive.
For weeks the PM has dangled the prospect of a reshuffle to whip rebellious MPs into line for a series of crunch votes.
Now – as he looks to get back on the front foot following a bruising few months – the reshuffle is finally on.
Read our Boris Johnson live blog below for the latest updates…
RAAB TO JUSTICE
… Not sacked then, it seemed, but demoted to another role. Harry Cole is hearing that Raab has gone to Justice… but also has become deputy PM.
Not a traditional role, it carries no salary and the holder doesn’t automatically become PM in the same way a vice president does.
The most recent person to hold the role was Lib Dem Nick Clegg during the coalition years… remember him?
ON THE WARPATH
As we know, the Commons office is where the sackings usually take place… but now the PM has moved to his Downing Street office.
No10 have not confirmed whether Mr Raab is still in Government… but they’ve not said he’s left.
But now we’ve seen him coming up Downing Street.
Sounds like he’s been offered a demotion he doesn’t want, and Raab’s fought back. Spicy.
Buckland, Jenrick and Williamson are out.
No10 say: Robert Buckland, Robert Jenrick and Gavin Williamson have now left Government.
Robert Buckland has made a huge contribution to government as Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, including making our streets safer through significant reforms to sentencing and tackling reoffending. The Prime Minister is grateful for his hard work and dedication.
Robert Jenrick has led crucial work over the last two years, most importantly driving reforms to build more houses so home ownership becomes a reality for many more people. The Prime Minister is grateful for his drive and commitment.
Gavin Williamson has played a key role in transforming the skills agenda as we create a high wage and high skilled economy, providing a lifetime skills guarantee for millions across the country. The Prime Minister is grateful for his loyalty and service.
The first part of today’s Cabinet reshuffle is now over, with the PM having removed Gavin Williamson from education, Robert Buckland from justice, and Robert Jenrick from housing.
Dominic Raab has just left Parliament with his future still unclear amid reports he’s “throwing his toys out of the pram” at the prospect of being demoted from foreign secretary.
The PM is now back at No 10 where he will welcome the ministers he’s going to offer promotions to.
BOTH ROBERTS GONE
By Jack Elsom, Political Reporter
Boris Johnson’s decision to remove both Robert Buckland and Robert Jenrick has caught many in Westminster by surprise.
Both the Justice Secretary and Housing Secretary were trusted media performers regularly sent out to bat for the Government on TV.
Jenrick – who is only 39 – was dragged into a row last year when he fast-tracked approval of a multi-billion project for Tory donor Richard Desmond.
But at this stage both he and Buckland appear to have been collateral damage in the PM’s wider restructuring – perhaps to make way for new roles for Dominic Raab and Michael Gove.
IN THE BANK
If as expected Michael Gove is moved across to Housing Secretary, that will create a new vacancy at the Cabinet Office.
Steve Barclay, who is currently Chief secretary to the Treasury, is widely being tipped to take on the post.
It would mark a return to Cabinet for the former Brexit secretary, who lost that job when Britain left the EU at the start of last year.
IT MUST BE GOVE
Michael Gove is now being tipped by Cabinet colleagues to become the next housing secretary, according to our Political Editor Harry Cole.
He currently has a roving role within Government as the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
But the PM is now said to want to unleash his famed zeal for reform on the nation’s housing problem.
Meanwhile, Harry reports embattled home secretary Priti Patel is safe in her job despite being tipped by some for the axe.
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick is the latest Cabinet minister to be axed by Boris Johnson.
In a tweet confirming the news he vowed to continue supporting the PM from the back benches.
GAVIN JUST DIDN’T MAKE THE GRADE
By Jack Elsom, Political Reporter
That Gavin Williamson has been sacked will come as a shock to nobody.
In his two years as Education Secretary he has presided over one of the most chaotic periods of British schooling in modern history.
He just about managed to cling to his job following last year’s algorithm fiasco that made him public enemy number one in the eyes of many students.
But his fate was sealed with hated policies like school bubbles and a series of PR blunders like his recent mistaking of Maro Itoje for Marcus Rashford.
For the man dubbed “gaffe-a-day Gavin” by his critics, the gaffes just piled too high.
NEXT JUSTICE SECRETARY?
Dominic Raab is expected to be axed as foreign secretary this afternoon and is now being tipped for a move to the justice department.
Robert Buckland’s sacking creates a vacancy which could be filled by Mr Raab, who is a lawyer by trade.
Justice secretary Robert Buckland has become the second victim of today’s Cabinet reshuffle.
In a tweet confirming his sacking he said he’s “deeply proud of everything I achieved” in the post.
Like Gavin Williamson, he too looks destined for the back benches.
PASS THE BUCK?
Justice secretary Robert Buckland could be the next reshuffle victim and is reportedly set to be ousted.
Trade secretary Liz Truss, culture secretary Oliver Dowden, and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch are meanwhile all tipped to secure promotions.
Badenoch has previously been linked with the education secretary role, which has just been vacated by Gavin Williamson.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson this afternoon became the first victim of the reshuffle.
He announced the news – which was widely expected – in a tweet after meeting Boris Johnson.
It is not believed he has been offered another position in Government.
DON’T LOOK VACC
Nadhim Zahawi has been spotted arriving at Parliament in a limousine.
The vaccines minister has been tipped for promotion to a Cabinet role after impressing with his handling of the jabs rollout.
HE’S DOM FOR
Dominic Raab’s fate was sealed by his widely criticised handling of the Afghanistan crisis last month.
The foreign secretary initially refused to return home from his holiday at a 5* hotel in Crete to oversee the evacuation efforts.
He was accused of being asleep on the job and a slew of briefings against him then further undermined his position.
Mr Raab is also the de facto deputy PM – a job he could cling on to despite being demoted.
Here he is leaving the Foreign Office to discover his fate.
RAAB ARRIVES AT THE COMMONS
Dominic Raab has arrived at Parliament, where Boris Johnson will carry out his sackings.
TRUSS ON TOP
Trade Secretary Liz Truss is the most liked Cabinet Minister among Tory members.
A poll of party activists by the grassroots ConservativeHome website shows her net satisfaction rating as +85.2, ahead of Rishi Sunak on +74.5.
Bottom of the heap is Education Secretary Gavin Williamson on -53.5.
A minister under David Cameron, Truss is the longest serving member of the Cabinet and has been tipped to replace Dominic Raab at the Foreign Office.
DON’T GET CARRIED AWAY
During Boris Johnson’s premiership there has been much talk of the influence wielded by his wife Carrie.
The ex Tory comms guru famously won a power struggle with Dominic Cummings that led to the top aide leaving Downing Street.
But the PM’s official spokesman today insisted Ms Johnson had no sway in her husband’s decisions.
The PM is expected to call Cabinet ministers facing the chop into his Commons office first to deliver the bad news.
Doing so will spare them the humiliating walk along Downing St in front of the world’s media after losing their jobs.
Those set for promotion will then be invited to No 10 later on, giving them an opportunity to smile for the cameras.
Boris is set to reshuffle his Cabinet today, before moving onto juggling junior ministerial jobs tomorrow.
Larry the Downing Street cat, chief mouser to the Cabinet office, is keeping a close eye on the potential cabinet arrivals.
The PM will hop over here to carry on his reshuffle here later on.
The PM’s spokesperson confirms the reshuffle is now underway. He won’t go into when the PM first started to plan things… considering that they said yesterday there were “no plans” for one.
It’s currently taking place in the PM’s Parliamentary office, they said.
We can expect to see cabinet ministers and MPs going up the Downing Street path in the mid afternoon.
It’s expected that Cabinet ministers will be reshuffled today, and junior ones tomorrow.
No news on how long it might last either… buckle in!
TAKING IT FOR GRANT-ED
One Cabinet minister who’s showing no signs of nerves about today’s reshuffle is Grant Shapps.
The transport secretary is widely considered to have been one of the Government’s better performers during the pandemic.
While colleagues fret over their futures he’s been taking in the sights checking out London’s new fleet of river buses.
GAV IT AWAY
Gavin Williamson is said to have delivered a farewell speech to staff at his department just now.
The education secretary “knows he’s done” and will be axed in this afternoon’s reshuffle, according to HuffPost.
The gaffe-prone Cabinet minister had been widely tipped for the chop after a series of missteps during the pandemic.
Rumours have swirled that the PM is lining him up to replace Brandon Lewis as Northern Ireland secretary.
WHO WILL BE SITTING ROUND THE TABLE NEXT WEEK?
This is a picture of yesterday’s Cabinet meeting – but there will be some new faces soon.
NOT ON THE BENCH
Are Dominic Raab, the Foreign Sec, and Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary…
Work and Pensions boss Therese Coffey not there either.
Is that a sign they’re about to get the boot?