Andrea Leadsom was yesterday the biggest name to fall in Boris Johnson’s Cabinet purge.
Mrs Leadsom, who has twice run for the Tory party leadership and has held a variety of Cabinet and ministerial posts, took her team of advisers for a champagne lunch at the Goring Hotel in Westminster after her dismissal.
Prominent Brexiteer Mrs Leadsom, 56, was replaced as Business Secretary by former aid secretary Alok Sharma – who also took charge of the UK’s COP26 climate change summit.
File photo of Andrea Leadsom from Tuesday, who has been sacked as Business Secretary. Mrs Leadsom, who has twice run for the Tory party leadership and has held a variety of Cabinet and ministerial posts, took her team of advisers for a champagne lunch at the Goring Hotel in Westminster after her dismissal
Newly appointed Business and Energy Secretary Alok Sharma arrives at 10 Downing Street on February 13, 2020 in London, England. The Prime Minister made adjustments to his Cabinet today now Brexit has been completed
Mrs Leadsom, who insiders claimed irritated No10 aides by arguing at Cabinet, was Leader of the Commons under Theresa May and before that environment secretary. She came second to Mrs May in the 2016 Tory leadership race but was eliminated after the first ballot in last year’s contest.
She was one of five frontbenchers to be axed, with the Prime Minister delivering the news in face-to-face meetings at his parliamentary office. The others were Julian Smith, Esther McVey, Theresa Villiers and Geoffrey Cox.
Mr Smith was sacked as Northern Ireland Secretary. The former chief whip appeared to have paid the price for briefing against Mr Johnson’s chief aide Dominic Cummings on Brexit. Critics branded his removal as ‘disastrous’. Only weeks ago, he was widely praised after brokering a return to power-sharing at the Stormont Assembly in Northern Ireland after a three-year suspension.
In this file photo taken on October 29, 2019 Britain’s Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith leaves number 10 Downing street in London following the weekly cabinet meeting on October 29, 2019
File photo dated 6 February of Minister of State for Housing Esther McVey, who has been relieved of her post in the government as part of the Cabinet reshuffle
British Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Theresa Villiers arrives for a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, 06 February 2020
However, allies of Mr Johnson later suggested that he had ‘blindsided’ the PM over the deal, claiming that he had been left fuming after Mr Smith signed off on another investigation into alleged historic crimes by British soldiers.
Last night, sources close to Mr Smith insisted the PM had been fully aware of the new legacy body. Instead, they suggested Mr Smith had been sacked over his comments on Brexit, in particular his public rebuttal of comments widely believed to have been made by Mr Cummings.
Last year a ‘Downing Street source’ was quoted as saying that countries that supported a delay to Brexit would ‘go to the bottom of the queue’ when negotiating the UK’s future relationship. The source also indicated that security and defence co-operation would ‘inevitably’ be affected, in a veiled attack on Dublin.
But Mr Smith responded: ‘I am clear that any threat on withdrawing security co-operation with Ireland is unacceptable.’
British Attorney General Geoffrey Cox departs a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, 06 February 2020
Mr Smith generally took the opposite approach to relations with Dublin than Mr Cummings. Yesterday, the leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party in Northern Ireland said Mr Smith’s sacking was a ‘strategic error’. Colum Eastwood said: ‘It defies belief that after the successful restoration of power sharing following a three-year collapse, Julian Smith’s reward is a Cabinet Office P45.’
Marty Adams, from historical abuse victims’ campaign group Survivors Together, called for Mr Johnson to ‘see sense’ and reappoint Mr Smith. He was replaced by security minister Brandon Lewis.
Miss Villiers said Mr Johnson told her she needed ‘to make way for someone new’, saying: ‘What the Prime Minister giveth, the Prime Minister taketh away.’ The sacking of Miss McVey means her replacement will be the tenth person in the housing role in ten years.
Meanwhile, Mr Cox delivered a thinly-veiled rebuke, saying he had introduced Mr Johnson at his Tory leadership launch. He had been the subject of hostile briefings from No10 that he was not a ‘team player’.