Tuesday 14 January 2020 4:44 am

DEBATE: Should Boris Johnson consider a complete cabinet overhaul after Brexit?

Victoria Mackarness is an account manager at CMS Strategic.
Eliot Wilson
Eliot Wilson is co-founder of Pivot Point and a former House of Commons official

Should Boris Johnson consider a complete cabinet overhaul after Brexit?

Victoria Mackarness, account manager at CMS Strategic, says YES.

Boris Johnson has an overwhelming majority, Brexit is on track to be delivered in just a couple of weeks, and the Conservative party is at last united on Europe for the first time in decades.

This all gives the Prime Minister an entirely free hand when choosing his cabinet — a rare power. While collective responsibility is still vital, the ideological purity on Brexit that was necessary pre-election is no longer a requirement. Instead, the PM should make sure he has the very best people in each post.

The government’s bold new agenda encompasses everything from major foreign trade deals to increased infrastructure in the north. If this ambitious programme is to be accomplished in the next five years, the Prime Minister cannot afford to reward Brexit loyalty over expertise.

To ensure that he sees his vision brought to life, Boris needs to view his cabinet with a pair of fresh eyes. Come February, there should be no such thing as a safe job, as the Prime Minister sets about proving that he cares about competence over cronyism.

Eliot Wilson, head of research at Right Angles and a former House of Commons official, says NO.

Politicians like change. It makes them look forward-thinking and dynamic. Cabinet reshuffles are best of all, because they’re easy: after all, the Prime Minister holds all the cards. But a major shuffle of Boris Johnson’s deck at the moment would be a mistake.

A good cabinet minister takes at least a few months to master his or her brief. That’s just the time it takes to learn, to understand, and to be able to go toe-to-toe with the entrenched civil service policy experts. Only then can they begin to flower.

Bear in mind that most of Johnson’s top team have only been in place since last summer, so they’re just starting to get settled.

Now more than ever we need sound, competent government. The current administration is ambitious, and has a lot of challenges to face.

Don’t add to ministers’ woes by putting them in jobs where they’re frantically staying one page ahead of their advisers in the briefing. Let them learn, consolidate, and breathe.

Main image credit: Getty

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