By Ned Simons
Boris Johnson has sacked five cabinet ministers, as he begun reshuffling his cabinet on Thursday morning.
The prime minister removed Julian Smith as Northern Ireland secretary despite him having recently helped secure a power-sharing deal at Stormont.
Esther McVey has been fired as housing minister. Andrea Leadsom has been sacked as business secretary.
Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general, has been removed from his post as has environment secretary Theresa Villiers.
In a post on Facebook, Villiers said the prime minister told her she had to “make way for someone new”.
Serving the people of Northern Ireland has been the biggest privilege. I am extremely grateful to @BorisJohnson for giving me the chance to serve this amazing part of our country. The warmth & support from people across NI has been incredible. Thank you so much.
— Julian Smith MP (@JulianSmithUK) February 13, 2020
I’m very sorry to be relieved of my duties as Housing Minister
I wish my successor the very best & every success
I’m very grateful to the Prime Minister for having given me the opportunity to serve in his government & he will continue to have my support from the back benches
— Esther McVey (@EstherMcVey1) February 13, 2020
It has been a real privilege to serve in Government for the last six years, and in @beisgovuk for six months. I now look forward to focusing on my constituents and on my 20+ year campaign to see every baby get the best start in life. (1/)
— Andrea Leadsom MP (@andrealeadsom) February 13, 2020
I have been truly privileged to have served as Attorney General during the recent turbulent political times. I am now leaving the Government at the PM’s request. I shall continue to represent and stand up strongly for the interests of Torridge and West Devon. pic.twitter.com/Fo9SHLIe5i
— Geoffrey Cox QC MP (@Geoffrey_Cox) February 13, 2020
Senior ministers including chancellor Sajid Javid, home secretary Priti Patel and foreign secretary Dominic Raab look as if they will remain in place.
It is the first cabinet reshuffle since Johnson won a comfortable majority at the general election in December.
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Alok Sharma is expected to be promoted from his current international development job, while paymaster general Oliver Dowden is rumoured to be the new culture secretary.
There are currently only eight women in Johnson’s 31-strong cabinet team and it has suggested this figure could actually go down rather than up.
Female MPs that are in line for promotion include defence minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan, prisons minister Lucy Frazer, former Brexit minister Suella Braverman and Chichester MP Gillian Keegan.
Downing Street has indicated the most junior ministerial rank – parliamentary under-secretary of state level – is likely to have a 50-50 gender split after the reshuffle.
Other factors at play in this reshuffle include filling the vacant role in charge of the Cop26 UN climate summit, with Michael Gove’s name having been floated.