Rishi Sunak is planning a major cabinet reshuffle just 105 days after he entered Number 10 Downing Street. The changes are expected to be announced as soon as today, insiders have said. This comes just one week after Nadhim Zahawi was sacked as Tory party chairman over his tax affairs.
Sources have told Express.co.uk that Grant Shapps, the current Business Secretary, is set to reprise his role as party chairman and “help steady the ship”.
Mr Shapps was David Cameron’s party chairman in 2015 when the Tories won their first majority in an election since 1992 and is seen as a brilliant strategist.
The former transport secretary was also instrumental in getting Boris Johnson elected in 2019 and then Liz Truss removed in a coup last year.
But two other names were in the frame last night.
One source told Express.co.uk that Mr Sunak had a shortlist of digital economy and London minister Paul Scully and trade minister Greg Hands for the chairmanship.
Mr Scully is understood to have canceled a trip to Manchester ahead of the reshuffle.
As well as having to replace Mr Zahawi, Mr Sunak is also under mounting pressure to sack his deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, who is facing up to 24 allegations of bullying.
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The Prime Minister is expected to use the opportunity for a wide-sweeping Cabinet shakeup, which could involve a new energy department.
According to the Sun, the Business and Trade departments will be merged, with a new science and digital department being created.
Meanwhile, culture and sport – formerly under the umbrella of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport – would become a standalone department.
The changes would have major implications for the structure of the Cabinet.
It is not yet known who will be replacing Mr Zahawi as party chairman, but insiders have tipped Grant Shapps as a possible contender.
The possible merging of the Business and International Trade departments would also have implications for Kemi Badenoch, who is currently serving as International Trade Secretary.
One source told the Sun: “The focus is making government work better but, in reality, it leaves senior ministers looking over their shoulder and leaves big questions about the future of Raab who faces a bullying inquiry.”
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Another said: “These changes will put a lot of noses out of joint – there will be winners and losers all over the place with some very upset egos.
“What happens to Grant Shapps at Business and where does Kemi fit into all this?”
A former minister said: “If Sunak is looking for a loyal supporter with a proven track record then Shapps is the obvious person to be chairman.
“He could then break up BEIS, put parts of it in with education, other parts the Treasury and then have a department focused on energy and climate change.”
There was some speculation that former COP26 President Alok Sharma could be a new Energy Secretary.
Mr Sunak was forced to sack Mr Zahawi last Monday after ministerial interests adviser Sir Laurie Magnus delivered a damning verdict over his tax affairs.
This came after a fortnight of mounting pressure.
Embattled Mr Sunak last week insisted he acted “pretty decisively” by sacking Mr Zahawi over the tax row – but the Prime Minister is facing intense pressure with critics arguing he should have acted sooner.
He said he followed the “right process” by waiting for the outcome of an ethics inquiry which concluded that Mr Zahawi breached the ministerial code.
The PM stressed “integrity is important to me” and promised to take “whatever steps are necessary to restore the integrity back into politics”.
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab is under investigation by senior lawyer Adam Tolley KC with reports that at least 24 civil servants are involved in formal complaints against him.
The complaints span his time at the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Defense and the Department for Exiting the European Union.
Mr Raab denies allegations of bullying.
Mr Sunak has so far resisted pressure to suspend Mr Raab.
Downing Street declined to comment.