Boris Johnson has sacked Jeremy Hunt as foreign secretary as the new Prime Minister sought to stamp his authority on his government with a brutal Cabinet cull.
Mr Hunt, who Mr Johnson crushed in the Tory leadership contest, said he ‘would have been honoured to carry on my work’ but he understood the need for the victor to ‘choose his team’.
Mr Hunt said he had been offered a new role in the Cabinet by Mr Johnson but he rejected the demotion.
Mr Johnson also got rid of fellow Brexiteers Penny Mordaunt and Liam Fox in a series of savage sackings which shocked Westminster.
Ms Mordaunt, viewed by many as being un-sackable because of her status as the most senior Leave-backing woman in the Cabinet, was given the boot by Mr Johnson after just 85 days at the Ministry of Defence.
Meanwhile, International Trade Secretary Dr Fox, Business Secretary Greg Clark, Education Secretary Damian Hinds, Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley and Housing Secretary James Brokenshire have left the government.
Scottish Secretary David Mundell and Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes are also out.
Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, is also returning to the backbenches, reportedly at his own request.
The sackings came after Philip Hammond, David Gauke and Rory Stewart all resigned immediately before Mr Johnson became PM as they denied him the chance to fire them.
The new PM had already laid down a marker by appointing maverick Vote Leave chief Dominic Cummings as a top adviser.
A host of other veterans of the successful EU referendum campaign in 2016 are also being brought into the No10 fold with Mr Johnson.
Meanwhile, Brexiteers such as Priti Patel and Dominic Raab are in line for comebacks to the Cabinet.
Sajid Javid is hotly tipped as the new Chancellor as Mr Johnson promises to create the ‘most diverse’ top table of government ever.
Penny Mordaunt, pictured in central London yesterday, was sacked by Boris Johnson after just 85 days as defence secretary
Ms Mordaunt said she would be ‘heading to the backbenches’ as she thanked the Armed Forces for having ‘helped me get things done’
Liam Fox was also fired by the new prime minister as he described his tenure as International Trade Secretary as a ‘privilege’
Greg Clark said he understood why Mr Johnson wanted him out of the government as he responded to his sacking on Twitter
Mr Johnson (pictured in London yesterday) had earlier laid down a marker by appointing maverick Vote Leave chief Dominic Cummings as a top adviser
Installing Dominic Cummings (pictured with Mr Johnson and Michael Gove in 2016) has caused alarm in many parts of the Conservative Party
Mr Hunt’s supporters had urged Mr Johnson to keep the foreign secretary in a senior role in his new government.
But Mr Hunt suggested the offer he had been made by the new premier was not good enough and it was ‘time to return to the backbenches’.
He said: ‘I would have been honoured to carry on my work at the FCO but understand the need for a new PM to choose his team. BJ kindly offered me another role but after 9 yrs in Cabinet & over 300 cab mtgs now is the time to return 2 backbenches from where PM will have my full support
‘I’ve been a cabinet minister for every hour my 3 gorgeous children have been alive. So whilst it may seem strange for someone who just tried to become PM (& is a terrible cliche) I have decided now is the time for the biggest challenge of all – to be a GOOD DAD!’
Ms Mordaunt, Mr Clark and Dr Fox were all reportedly fired by Mr Johnson as he made space to appoint his supporters.
The sacked defence secretary confirmed her departure with a tweet as she said: ‘I’m heading to the backbenches from where the PM will have my full support, as will my successors at [the Ministry of Defence] and [Department for Women and Equalities].
‘Thank you to everyone who’s helped me get things done, especially our Armed Forces and civilians in defence for the last 85 days. We achieved much.’
Her departure stunned Westminster because she was viewed as a lock to feature in Mr Johnson’s top team because of pro-Brexit stance.
Dr Fox, another supporter of Mr Hunt’s failed bid for the Tory leadership, said he was ‘sad’ to leave the government and described his tenure banging the drum for trade as a ‘privilege’.
Mr Clark said Mr Johnson was ‘right to appoint a new team for a new premiership’ and he wished him well ‘for the vital work ahead’.
Mr Hinds said he looked ‘forward to supporting the government from the backbenches’.
The scale of the sackings shocked even the most weathered of Whitehall observers as Mr Johnson chopped far more ministers – and more quickly – than had been expected.
Mr Johnson’s decision to boot out so many of Theresa May’s long-serving allies means he will be able to start afresh with his top team.
Damian Hinds was sacked as Education Secretary after a relatively low-key tenure on the frontbench
Chris Grayling is reportedly leaving the government at his own request. His time as Transport Secretary has been littered with blunders
It will also allow a reset button to be pushed in a handful of government departments which have been beset by controversy in recent years.
Perhaps the most significant of those will be the Northern Ireland Office where Mrs Bradley’s tenure has been littered with missteps and the Department for Transport where Mr Grayling has presided over a series of blunders.
MPs reacted with alarm at news of Mr Cummings’ appointment. One Johnson supporter told MailOnline he ‘lacks people skills’ and was ill-equipped to handle the pressure-cooker of No10. Hearing of the recruitment, another MP said incredulously: ‘Really?’
Dominic Cummings: The acerbic Brexit mastermind not afraid to speak his mind
Dominic Cummings was the quiet yet acerbic power behind the Vote Leave campaign that propelled Britain towards backing Brexit in 2016.
While Boris Johnson and Michael Gove were in the limelight the 47-year-old remained in the shadows pulling the strings.
Born in Durham and educated at Oxford University, he over saw a campaign that totally outflanked Remain and which is widely credited with leading to the 52-48 result in favour of quitting.
Such was his central role he was played by Benedict Cummberbach in Channel 4’s Brexit: The Uncivil War last year (below).
He was the man behind the infamous ‘£350million-a-week for the NHS’ claim on red buses, and the ‘take back control’ catchphrase. However, a year after the referendum, Mr Cummings said it was a ‘dumb idea’.
But his success in the strategic role of the campaign saw his drawn blinking into the daylight.
A former special adviser at the Department for Education during Mr Gove’s controversial reforming tenure was later found in contempt of Parliament for refusing to answer MPs questions about campaign.
He declined to assist the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee’s investigation into claims made by Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie that the Facebook data of millions of users was illegally harvested and used to sway the Brexit vote.
He was once labelled a ‘career psychopath’ by former prime minister David Cameron, according to widely-reported remarks.
But Mr Cummings is no stranger to an insult either.
He described Mr Davis, then the Brexit secretary, as ‘thick as mince, lazy as a toad and vain as Narcissus’ in July 2017.
He has also turned his fire on hardline Brexiteers in the Tory European Research Group in one of his trademark lengthy blogposts.
In March he likened some members of the to a ‘metastasising tumour’ accusing them of ‘scrambling’ for top radio spots while ‘spouting gibberish’ since 2016.
He also attacked them for their help – or lack of it – during the referendum campaign, saying ‘so many of you guys were too busy shooting or skiing or chasing girls to do any actual work’.
The mastermind criticised a ‘narcissist-delusional subset’ of the ERG that he said needed to be ‘excised’.
Some had actually been ‘useful idiots for Remain during the campaign’ and continued to play this role, he claimed.
Mr Johnson once joked that he had more chance of being ‘reincarnated as an olive’ than becoming PM – but today he will realise his dream.
The new Tory leader – who as a child said his ambition was to be ‘world king’ is frantically assembling his new team as he prepares will take over from Mrs May this afternoon .
Seeking to inject a ‘can-do’ spirit into government and force through Brexit by the end of October. Mr Johnson will promote a new generation of ministers.
But there will be a lot of familiar faces, both from his time in City Hall and from the 2016 Brexit referendum campaign that defines his political career.
In stark contrast, Mr Johnson will face an exodus of Remainer ministers, with Philip Hammond, David Gauke, Rory Stewart and Claire Perry all expected to resign from the Cabinet immediately after Mrs May’s final PMQs.
Theresa May arrived in the Commons chamber to cheers from Tory backbenchers and took her seat next to Chancellor Philip Hammond.
She said she would continue with her duties from the back benches as she faces her final Prime Minister’s Questions as PM.
Speaking in the Commons, she said: ‘This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others.
‘Following my duties in this House this afternoon I shall have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen.
‘I shall then continue with my duties in this House from the back benches where I will continue to be the member of parliament for Maidenhead.’
Last night Mr Johnson told a meeting of Tory MPs he would ‘love bomb’ his critics in an attempt to unite a party that has been riven by conflict since the 2016 referendum.
But installing Mr Cummings immediately cause alarm in many parts of the Conservative Party.
The maverick, renowned as the brains behind the Vote Leave victory three years ago, recently compared hardline Eurosceptics to a ‘metastasising tumour’ branding them ‘useful idiots’.
One Tory MP, who supports Mr Johnson as PM, told MailOnline that Mr Cummings ‘lacked people skills’.
‘One of the lines being used for why people should not support Michael Gove (during the leadership campaign) was, ”Do you really want to see Dominic Cummings at No10?”’ they said.
‘He wouldn’t be coming back without assurances that he will have free rein.
‘He does lack people skills. In a place like Downing Street there are always tensions, there is always territorial warfare and there is individual ambition.
‘You need to deal with all these egos and different issues with a bit of diplomacy.
‘Even the best of people would have clashes. But with Dominic Cummings there is no effort. If he wants to swear at you he will swear at you.’
The MP added: ‘The fact he has been brought in at such a senior level will give him licence to say, ”Everyone knows the way I behave, despite that they have called me back – they know what they are going to get.”
‘We have had in the past few years various issues on bullying… MPs bullying their staff, codes of conduct, ministers being held to account. The PM will no doubt be held to account for the conduct in his own office.’
Sources said the shake-up would create the most ethnically-diverse Cabinet ever, with Mr Javid strongly tipped to be chancellor and Mr Johnson’s long-time ally Alok Sharma expected to be housing minister.
Sources in the Johnson camp said the number of full female Cabinet ministers would increase from the current five.
Liz Truss is certain to get a senior role and was still in the running for chancellor last night.
Amber Rudd and Penny Mordaunt are expected to retain their seats at the top table, while Andrea Leadsom is tipped for a return just weeks after resigning over Brexit
Priti Patel, who was sacked by Theresa May less than two years ago, is set for a remarkable return as part of a Cabinet that insiders said would be the most ethnically diverse ever
Home Secretary Sajid Javid (left) is heavily tipped to become Mr Johnson’s Chancellor, while Gavin Williamson (right) is expected to return to the cabinet, perhaps as the Northern Ireland secretary or as deputy PM
Sir Michael Fallon yesterday urged ‘self-indulgent’ critics threatening to bring down Mr Johnson to give him a chance, saying: ‘Let sunshine win the day.’
In a statement of intent, Mr Johnson is planning to embark on a tour of the four nations of the UK to counter claims that his tough stance on Brexit risks fracturing the Union.
Who is Penny Mordaunt, the sacked defence secretary?
Penny Mordaunt made waves earlier this year when she was made the UK’s first ever female defence secretary.
But a little over 80 days later, her fleeting tenure in the Cabinet ended as she was sacked by Boris Johnson.
Though brief, the 46-year-old’s stint in one of the most significant offices of state was enough to endear her to both rank-and-file and the military top brass – not least because, unlike her predecessor Gavin Williamson, Ms Mordaunt had experience in the Armed Forces as a Royal Navy reservist.
Last year, there was speculation the prominent Leave campaigner – who came out to bat for Jeremy Hunt during the leadership campaign – might resign over Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement.
But her public show of support for the then-prime minister seemed to have paid dividends, with a promotion from international development secretary.
First elected to Parliament as MP for Portsmouth North in 2010, Ms Mordaunt achieved ministerial rank under David Cameron between 2014 and 2016, and was appointed minister for disabled people when Theresa May took power in 2016.
She is probably best known outside of Westminster for donning her swimsuit in the TV show Splash! in 2014, when she joined celebrities to be trained in diving by Olympian Tom Daley.
The daughter of a paratrooper-turned-teacher, she served as an acting sub-lieutenant of the Portsmouth-based HMS King Alfred.
Mrs May announced she was stepping down in the wake of the disastrous European Parliament elections that followed her failure to take Britain out of the EU on March 29.
She will resign as prime minister this afternoon, after which the Queen will invite Mr Johnson to Buckingham Palace.
Yesterday’s result confirmed that Mr Johnson’s blend of optimism and Brexit determination had proved a winning formula with Tory activists.
He secured 92,153 votes – 66.4 per cent – to defeat Mr Hunt, who was backed by 46,656 Tory members – 33.6 per cent.
Mr Johnson said: ‘We are once again going to believe in ourselves and what we can achieve. And like some slumbering giant, we are going to rise and ping off the guy ropes of self-doubt and negativity, we are going to unite this amazing country and we are going to take it forward.’ Referring to his promise to deliver Brexit, unite the nation and defeat Labour, he added: ‘I know that some wag has already pointed out that Deliver, Unite and Defeat was not the perfect acronym for an election campaign, since unfortunately it spells DUD – but they forgot the final E, my friends, E for Energise. And I say to all the doubters, DUDE, we are going to energise the country.’
Education minister Anne Milton became the latest Remainer minister to quit yesterday, saying she had ‘grave concerns’ about No Deal. In an ominous resignation letter, she said: ‘It is important to me to be free to do what I feel is right for the country and my constituents.’
Former Tory leader William Hague also sounded the alarm, warning that No Deal could put the government ‘in near-terminal trouble from its first hour’. Veteran Tory MP Sir Keith Simpson branded the new regime a ‘circus’ and attacked those MPs clamouring for government jobs as ‘ambitious little s***s’.
In his acceptance speech yesterday, Mr Johnson acknowledged he had his doubters, saying: ‘I know that there will be people around the place who will question the wisdom of your decision. And there may even be some people here who still wonder quite what they have done.’
But he offered a return to traditional Tory values. And, in an olive branch to his critics, sources said he would offer plum jobs today to rising stars Oliver Dowden, Rishi Sunak and Robert Jenrick, who backed Remain at the referendum.
Labour claims to be in secret talks with Tory Remainer rebels over ‘nuclear option’ of bringing down Boris Johnson’s government with no confidence vote
Barry Gardiner said that the opposition had been discussing the ‘nuclear option’ of supporting a no confidence vote in Mr Johnson’s Brexiteer administration
Labour has been holding secret talks with Tory Remainer rebels over working together to collapse Boris Johnson’s government within weeks if he attempts a No Deal Brexit, a shadow minister claimed today.
Barry Gardiner said that the opposition had been discussing the ‘nuclear option’ of supporting a no confidence vote in Mr Johnson’s Brexiteer administration.
The shadow international trade secretary’s admission came reports that as many as a dozen senior Tories could back Mr Corbyn if he calls for a vote of no confidence in the new government.
Chancellor Philip Hammond, who will quit later today rather than be sacked by Mr Johnson, and former chancellor Ken Clarke, have both refused to rule out he drastic step that would possibly see them lose the Tory whip.
Mr Gardiner named no names but asked if some Tories were talking to Labour he told the BBC ‘yes of course they are’ but that any move would depend on whether they were really prepared to go through with it.
‘We know that the Whips’ operation on the Conservative side can be very powerful and very effective,’ he said.
‘So we really do have to be clear (about) those Conservative MPs who say they will act in the nation’s best interest – even to the extent of voting down their own Conservative Government – because they like we are so concerned about the impact of no deal on the future of our country.’
Mr Hammond leaving his last Cabinet meeting yesterday
Ken Clarke has not ruled out voting against Boris Johnson’s Government
Last week Mr Hammond said he was not going to ‘exclude anything at the moment’ when asked directly whether he could back a bid to scupper Mr Johnson who has pledged to deliver Brexit by October 31 ‘do or die’.
The fact that a sitting Tory Chancellor is openly discussing whether he could support a move to bring down the next Conservative administration is unprecedented in recent history.
Meanwhile, Stephen Hammond, a Remain-backing Tory health minister, hinted he would be willing to push the ‘nuclear button’ of a no confidence vote as he said politicians must ‘do the right thing as they see it for the country’.
And in June Mr Clarke said he was ready to vote no confidence in any ‘idiot’ who made a bid to take the UK out of the EU without approval from Parliament.
Defence minister Tobias Ellwood suggested there might be as many as a dozen MPs willing to take the momentous step.
Jeremy Corbyn last night vowed to ‘surprise’ Boris Johnson with a no-confidence vote which could bring his premiership to an abrupt halt.
The Labour leader said his party would table the motion at a time of its choosing, with sources not ruling out making a dramatic move this week.
If Mr Johnson is toppled within the next four months, he would be the shortest-serving UK prime minister ever.
The Labour leader (pictured) said his party would table the motion at a time of its choosing, with sources not ruling out making a dramatic move this week
Without the support of the DUP, the Conservatives do not have a majority in the Commons.
Mr Corbyn tweeted: ‘Boris Johnson has won the support of fewer than 100,000 unrepresentative Conservative Party members by promising tax cuts for the richest, presenting himself as the bankers’ friend, and pushing for a damaging No Deal Brexit. But he hasn’t won the support of our country.
‘Johnson’s No Deal Brexit would mean job cuts, higher prices in the shops, and risk our NHS being sold off to US corporations in a sweetheart deal with Donald Trump.
‘The people of our country should decide who becomes the prime minister in a general election.’
Asked whether Labour will table a vote of no-confidence in the new prime minister, Mr Corbyn told the BBC: ‘We will table one when appropriate to do so. We’ll decide when that will be – it’ll be an interesting surprise for all of you.’
New Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson said: ‘Whether it is throwing people under the bus or writing a lie on the side of one: Britain deserves better than Boris Johnson.’