Theresa May has promoted a string of female and ethnic minority MPs to junior frontbench roles
The Prime Minister promoted a string of female and ethnic minority MPs to junior frontbench roles in a drive to make her Government “reflect the country it serves”.
And she strengthened her team leading the effort to pull Britain out of the EU by appointing an extra minister at the Brexit department.
Suella Fernandes, previously the leader of an influential group of Euro-sceptic backbenchers, was handed the role in a move that cheered Brexit supporters on the Tory benches.
Other female MPs promoted on the second day of day of the reshuffle included Caroline Dineage, Margot James, Harriett Baldwin, Lucy Frazer and Nusrat Ghani.
Two male junior ministers – including Mark Garnier, who was recently cleared of allegations of inappropriate behaviour after being caught up in the Westminster sex harassment scandal – were sacked yesterday and two more resigned their posts.
As she completed her New Year reshuffle last night, Mrs May said: “This Government is about building a country fit for the future – one that truly works for everyone with a stronger economy and a fairer society.
“This reshuffle helps us do just that by bringing fresh talent into Government, boosting delivery in key policy areas like housing, health and social care, and ensuring the Government looks more like the country it serves.
“It also allows a new generation of gifted ministers to step up and make life better for people across the whole UK.”
Some Tories were concerned that experienced male ministers were being unfairly sacrificed in the positive discrimination drive.
Tory MP Philip Davies said there was “a legitimate concern that some people may feel they have been hoofed out or not promoted simply because they are a white male”.
He said: “It certainly does not do anyone any favours to promote people who are not ready for promotion just because of their gender or race.”
Downing Street rejected Mr Davies’s criticism of the reshuffle, saying it was “absolutely not” the case that ministers were being chosen for the axe because they are male and white.
Mrs May’s official spokesman said: “This is about the Prime Minister putting in place the right team to tackle the challenges the country faces, whether that is on housing, improving school standards or the NHS.”
Her officials confirmed that the two-day shake up of ministerial ranks was designed to improve the gender and ethnic balance of the Government.
Tory rising stars promoted included Dominic Raab, Jo Johnson and Stephen Barclay
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “This is a reshuffle intended to build a team which can take on the challenges this country faces and deliver on the Government’s priorities of housing, school standards, NHS improvement and environment.”
He added: “It’s important the Government reflects that country it respresents. It is also important the country has a government that can deliver for the British public.”
MPs from ethnic minorities joining ministerial ranks yesterday included Rishi Sunak, Nadhim Zahawi and Shailesh Vara while Alok Sharma and Sam Gymiah were promoted.
Other Tory rising stars promoted yesterday included Dominic Raab, Jo Johnson and Stephen Barclay.
Among the departures from the frontbench was Mr Garnier. He was sacked as a trade minister despite being cleared of inappropriate behaviour following allegations he asked a female member of staff to buy a sex toy and called her by a saucy nickname.
Downing Street sources insisted the scandal had nothing to do with his sacking.
Robert Goodwill, who had been an education minister, was also axed in the reshuffle.
John Hayes and Philip Dunne resigned yesterday, giving up jobs in the transport and health briefs respectively.
In his resignation letter, Mr Hayes told the Prime Minister: “Outside of the limits of ministerial office I will be free to make a case for the socially elevating Conservatism in which you know I believe.”
Mr Dunne wrote: “I have been proud to play my part in working for you.” He pledged to continue to “support the Government from the backbenches.”
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In a signal of her determination to stamp out tolerance of sexual harassment at Westminster, the Prime Minister appointed a string of women as party whips.
Newcomers to the Tory whips office included Kelly Tolhurst, Mims Davies, Amanda Milling, Jo Churchill and Wendy Morton.
Mrs May faced criticism from some Tories last night over the reshuffle, which was dragged over two days as some ministers resisted job shifts.
One Tory MP described the shake up as “the worst reshuffle I have ever witnessed”.
Another backbencher said: “She ended the year in not a bad place, to the point where she was making a virtue of her ability to walk through fires.
“The ability to come out the other side of a burning building, which is, I think, the way she looked at the end of last year, isn’t enhanced by an ability to walk into a burning building deliberately.”
Mrs May chaired the first meeting of her new Cabinet in Downing Street yesterday a day after reshuffling the senior ranks. New appointees gathering around the Cabinet table included Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes and Climate Minister Claire Perry.
Former education secretary Justine Greening, who quit the Government on Monday after refusing a demotion, appeared defiant as she went jogging yesterday.
“I did what I thought was the right thing to do,” she said.