UK Prime Minister Theresa May has reshuffled her cabinet days before heading into Brexit negotiations with the European Union (EU), in a bid to contain the damage from her party’s weak showing in last week’s general elections.
May completed the new lineup of her ministers on Sunday by appointing Michael Gove, the former Justice Secretary, as the new Environment Secretary.
The move surprised many on the political scene since Gove—a force behind Brexit— was deemed an adversary to the PM after being fired by her in the aftermath of last year’s EU referendum.
May attempted to downplay the desperate move by telling the press that she was only bringing in “talent” from “across the whole of” her party to get on with the “immediate job.”
“That’s about delivering a successful Brexit negotiations and those negotiations start in a week’s time,” she said outside 10 Downing Street.
However, Gove couldn’t hold back his astonishment, telling Sky News that he was “quite surprised” to be included in the new cabinet.
“Of course I knew that today was re-shuffle day, but I genuinely didn’t expect this role although I am delighted to be part of the government, and delighted to be able to support Theresa,” he said.
The previous environment secretary, Andrea Leadsom, was appointed as the Leader of the House of Commons, replacing David Lidington, who would be the new Justice Secretary.
Another major change saw former Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green become First Secretary of State and Cabinet Office Minister– a title generally associated with the role of deputy prime minister.
David Gauke, who was Chief Secretary to the Treasury, replaced Green and gave his position to former Justice Secretary Liz Truss.
The changes came after the Tories were stripped off their 330-seat parliamentary majority by losing 12 seats in the June 8 election, while Labour, the main opposition party, managed to rise from 229 seats to 262.
May’s joint chiefs of staff Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy also stepped down on Saturday following reported pressure from some Tory lawmakers.
The beleaguered premier, who called the snap vote in mid-April to “strengthen her hand” in Brexit talks, is now trying to save herself by forming a coalition government with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
The announcement was timely as the new Parliament would return on Monday.