Gavin Williamson sacked from post as education secretary
Gavin Williamson has confirmed he is no longer education secretary.
The line in the second tweet about “continuing to support the prime minister and the government” implies that Williamson is returning to the backbenches, but he has not said that explicitly. Williamson expected to be moved, but reportedly was angling for another job, such as leader of the Commons, or Northern Ireland secretary.
The current co-party chair is Amanda Milling, and she has been seen not far from the PM’s office in the Commons, the Times’ Eleni Courea. Milling has been tipped for a move.
Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccine deployment minister, has arrived in the Commons, the Sun’s Harry Cole reports. Zahawi is tipped for promotion – possibly to Conservative party chair.
Here is more on what might be happening to Dominic Raab.
From ITV’s Robert Peston
Oliver Dowden, currently culture secretary, is due to be giving a speech in Cambridge this afternoon. He is still going, Sky’s Beth Rigby says.
Downing Street has confirmed that the government hopes to complete cabinet-level appointments today, with more junior posts to follow tomorrow.
Dominic Raab is seeing the PM now, the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg reports.
PMQs – Snap verdict
With the reshuffle now under way, today’s PMQs will probably be a hazy memory long before teatime. That will be a pity because it was a useful guide to how the dividing lines are settling on three key issues. Theo Bertram, a former Labour aide, thinks No 10 deliberately confirmed the reshuffle near the end of the Boris Johnson/Keir Starmer exchanges because Johnson was doing so badly. There may be something in that, but the reshuffle confirmation was going to come very soon anyway, and the attention of the lobby was always going to move on.
Betram is right about Johnson floundering badly when Starmer asked him about the universal credit cuts. Johnson had no realistic answer at all to the question about how people who face losing around £1,000, and that showed by the fact that he reverted to making an irrelevant point about lockdown. He also falsely claimed that all claimants would lose under Labour because the party wants to abolish universal credit. They wouldn’t, because Labour wants to make the benefits system more generous, but Starmer did not make this point, and the exchange suggests that the pledge to abolish UC could be a policy albatross – particularly given that (as far as anyone can tell) Labour just wants to reform UC, not abandon it altogether. (It has taken almost a decade to implement and is still being rolled out, and almost no one in the welfare system would want to start again from scratch.)
Starmer easily had the better of Johnson in these exchanges, but the Tory cheering kept the PM afloat and he did not look particularly humbled. But he did come across as someone who has not fully acknowledged quite how much financial pain his government is about to inflict on millions.
The second half of the Johnson/Starmer exchanges focused on the health and social care levy, and here Johnson was stronger. Starmer has firmed up his attack lines from last week, although his panto-style call and response routine did not quite work. (It is not something they try in court, one imagines.) But Johnson has sharpened his attack line too, and he sounded much more comfortable labelling Labour as a party that voted against £36bn for the NHS. And he boiled it down to “Vote Labour, wait longer”, which was more pithy and memorable than any of Starmer’s phrase-making today.
A third issue came up when Johnson claimed that the Tories were now the party of high wages and controlled immigration, while Labour were the opposite. It won’t feel like this to people affected by the UC cut, or who see their pay rises swallowed up by inflation, but it is notable because it shows Johnson seeking to make a virtue of the labour shortages that have been good for HGV drives seeking a pay rise (but less good for shoppers and traders).
Kemi Badenoch, who doubles up as equalities minister and a Treasury minister, has been spotted outside the PM’s office in the Commons, according to the Times’ Eleni Courea. Badenoch has been tipped for education secretary.
Gavin Williamson was one of two cabinet ministers conspicuously missing from the frontbench during PMQs. The other was Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, another minister tipped for demotion.
Raab is first secretary of state (theoretically the de facto deputy PM) as well as foreign secretary. It is possible that he could be moved out of the Foreign Office, but allowed to keep the first secretary of state title, in a way that would make any move look less like a demotion.
Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, has already given a leaving speech, according to HuffPost’s Sophia Sleigh.
Sarah Jones (Lab) asks about constituents being charged £23,000 to remove dangerous cladding who do not get government help because it is the wrong type of cladding.
Johnson says, if people do not need to remove that cladding, they will not get help. He says too many flats have been deemed unsafe.
And that’s it. PMQs is over, and Johnson is off to get started on the sackings. (See 12.22pm.)