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Rishi Sunak pays Suella Braverman’s price with home office role


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Good morning. Rishi Sunak decided the shape of his reshuffle and indeed his government last weekend, when he opted to pay Suella Braverman’s price.

Braverman is many things but she is no fool when it comes to internal Tory politics. She knew that her endorsement in the leadership race had the potential to tip the balance of the contest, either in the direction of Sunak or Boris Johnson.

She chose Sunak: or rather, Sunak chose to meet her price. Some more thoughts on the new government and some of the gambles Sunak is making below.

Inside Politics is edited today by Sarah Ebner. Follow Stephen on Twitter @stephenkb and please send gossip, thoughts and feedback to [email protected].

Don’t go breaking my Hart

The best way to understand what Rishi Sunak has done with his reshuffle is to start with Simon Hart, Sunak’s new chief whip. Hart is a smart appointment, because he knows the party well, and I am yet to meet a Conservative MP who dislikes him.

Nonetheless, Jeremy Hunt’s budget is going to cause Hart all sorts of problems. MPs will have objections to some of the looming tax rises, or some of the spending cuts, or a combination of both.

And what Hart will do, in an ebullient way, is say to those MPs: look, I completely understand where you’re coming from. But right now we’ve got a huge job on our hands convincing the markets that we’re not a wicker basket, some chilled meats, and a couple of bottles of fizz short of a picnic.

Then, depending on the politics of the MP doing the complaining, he will say, look, isn’t it wonderful having Andrew Mitchell, a terrific secretary of state for international development under David Cameron, back in charge of the portfolio again? Or he’ll point to Kemi Badenoch over at the equalities brief, sticking it to the wokerati, tofu-eating or otherwise.

Essentially every part of the parliamentary party has had one of their pet projects brought into, or kept inside the government by this reshuffle. The Sinosceptics have Tom Tugendhat, still in place as security minister. Those concerned that British soldiers might end up in court for their actions overseas or in Northern Ireland have Johnny Mercer back and attending cabinet. The party’s right has Braverman back at the Home Office. The party’s left has the fear that to upset the applecart means Braverman could be in Downing Street.

The big bet Sunak is making with his first cabinet reshuffle is that he has constructed a broad-based administration that can, at least, successfully pass the big and controversial Budget that Jeremy Hunt is going to bring forward later this month. The risk is that what he has constructed is not an ingenious device for keeping the Tory government alive and on the road, but an unstable contraption that will collapse the moment someone has to switch the engine on.

Everyday he’s shuffling

Something that Sunak has clearly done in appointing cabinet ministers and will, I imagine, be an even bigger subplot today as he turns to appointing junior ministers, is to lay the groundwork for another reshuffle down the line. Braverman maybe home secretary, but Robert Jenrick, a close ally of Sunak’s, is minister for immigration.

And as Jim Pickard and Seb Payne reveal in their explainer of what Sunak is trying to do with his reshuffle, many MPs believe that the prime minister will seek to put in his own chancellor once his position is stronger, politically and economically. And lo: over at the Treasury, John Glen, a longtime Sunak ally, is chief secretary, while Mel Stride, another potential Sunak chancellor, is at the DWP.

But there’s a big risk here. Often, a prime minister is at their most powerful right after they are elected, and it’s not clear to me that Sunak will ever be strong enough to free himself of the alliances of convenience he has made. He faces an economic crisis, that his party has aggravated, as well as a series of difficult challenges in the public realm. As I said on our latest Twitter space, there’s a perfectly plausible path to a Conservative victory at the next election, but it’s a difficult one. Sunak may never be powerful enough to substantially remodel the government he has made today.

The new prime minister has made a number of big bets in forming this cabinet, and those bets may yet come off. But as Janan Ganesh reminds me in a superb column, Sunak “has crammed a lot of misjudgments into a short career”. His list of howlers could have a way yet left to run.

Now try this

As my partner had to work late unexpectedly, I made what turned out to be the disastrous decision to see The School of Good & Evil at the cinema. On the bright side, the screening was deserted so I had the whole place to myself, which is always a joy. Unfortunately it soon became clear that the cinema was deserted for a reason, and not just because the movie is already streaming on Netflix.

However, on the bright side, the piped music was by the excellent electronic duo Röyksopp, whose record Melody AM is a wonderful record to relax or to work to.

Top stories today

  • Trouble ahead | New prime minister warns of “difficult decisions to come” as his chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, plans to present a debt-cutting plan in the coming days.

  • Steep learning curve | Sunak faces a steep learning curve in international affairs — he’s never held a position at the Foreign Office — as he grapples with the post-Brexit tensions with the EU, an increasingly assertive China and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

  • Travel alert | The operator of Heathrow airport has said it will be “a number of years” before air travel demand at the hub recovers consistently to pre-pandemic levels, in the latest of a series of gloomy forecasts about prospects.

  • Energy slump | Energy suppliers are likely to force vulnerable British households to switch to expensive prepayment electricity and gas meters at a rate of 10,000 meters a month by the end of the year, Nathalie Thomas reports.

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