It Had to Be You (Ministers)

It Had to Be You (Ministers)

Asked if he had a message for Boris Johnson this morning, Sajid Javid said “Happy Valentine’s Day”, smiled and got into his car…

The big news of the reshuffle was of course the appointment of a new Chancellor after Sajid Javid refused to agree to a new set-up that would merge the ‘advisory’ back office of the Treasury and Number 10.

Rishi Sunak, a man touted for no less than five different Cabinet roles over the last few weeks and as recently as yesterday morning expected to stay as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, is now the Chancellor of the Exchequer. A rising star (but not the youngest ever Chancellor – George Osborne was a year younger at 38), Rishi has a background in finance but is no stranger to healthcare.  His father was a GP and his mum ran a chemists; he at least will speak the ‘language’ of health when it comes to extracting money from the pot.

The question now is whether the back-office merger is the start of a bigger, yet slower, Government restructure. A reshuffle is the perfect time to rename a Department. It’s an easy win and a visual one as the sign makers move fast (the sign outside BIS became BEIS within 24 hours of the change under May in 2016).

Particularly when your Government is not the type to have Industrial Strategies, but is the type to separate back out Energy and Climate Change, why be coy? Where is the sensible idea of a new Department for Immigration and Borders, and the controversial one of subsiding the Department for International Development? Is this a sign of making changes where it matters, or only the beginning of more mini reshuffles alongside bolder restructures?

Matt Hancock staying on as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care means continuity for the health system and for those interacting with it. If No 10 is busy making sweeping reforms they will have to get on with Matt Hancock and Simon Stevens as they implement the NHS, social care and wider health agenda – despite heavy briefings regarding new legislative powers to tighten the ministerial ‘grip’ on NHS England.

In other moves largely lost amidst the drama of yesterday, Hancock’s SpAd of two years Jamie Njoku-Goodwin is moving back to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Meaning, for a short while at least, Hancock’s team is one member down.

Elsewhere, Daily Mail associate editor for politics Jack Doyle is moving to become Downing Street Press Secretary in a few weeks’ time. Replacing Rob Oxley, Jack’s recent articles include covering the Bong for Brexit campaign and Dilyn the dog’s activities at Number 10, so he will hit the ground running.

For now, we know the main junior ministerial moves are that Helen Whately replaces well-liked Caroline Dinenage as the minister with responsibility for social care. Perhaps it will be for the ex-McKinsey health specialist and Health Select Committee member to break the impasse on the Government’s promise to bring forward a cross party commission on social care in their first 100 days in power. By our calculations Whately has a mere 37 days to make this happen.

Greg Hands has been moved back to the Department of International Trade, having penned an article last week (before becoming Minister) underscoring that while the NHS will be off the table in trade talks, there will still be issues to agree around professional licencing, medicine patents and pricing.

All this means the momentum is with the Government to make big spending pledges, with Ministers and their advisers closely controlled by Number 10’s agenda. But with Johnson and his team increasingly ‘alone’ this Valentine’s Day.

Perhaps Javid will be sending the Prime Minister’s adviser Dominic Cummings a card like this today?