WHO WILL BE IN THE TRUSS CABINET?
With Liz Truss almost certain to become our next Prime Minister on 5th September, she faces a toxic cauldron of crises, with spiralling inflation, soaring energy costs, public sector strikes, a climate emergency and a looming winter of discontent. It is a daunting challenge and as the UK’s third female to get the keys to Number 10, she will need a cabinet of talent to confront the tasks ahead. She must not make the same mistake as Boris Johnson and fill her cabinet with talentless arch-Brexiteers or fawning sycophants. One of the interesting benefits to emerge from the Conservative Party’s leadership contest was the early parade of MPs of real skill and flair from which Liz Truss can choose her team. So, who are the likely contenders?
I believe the great offices of state are likely to be filled by Kwasi Kwarteng as Chancellor of the Exchequer, James Cleverly as Foreign Secretary and Therese Coffey as Home Secretary. Kwasi Kwarteng was business secretary under Johnson and will face the toughest job in the new cabinet as he tries to grapple with inflation tipped to reach 18% and energy costs that could skyrocket to more than £6,000 per household. James Cleverly was made Education Secretary by Johnson following the flurry of resignations that marked his downfall as party leader and PM. Previously Cleverly served adeptly as Minister of State for the Middle East, North Africa and America, before becoming Minister of State for Europe and North America, so his credentials for the top foreign office job are excellent. The post of Home Secretary could go to Truss loyalist Therese Coffey, currently serving as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. Coffey has served on the front bench under two prime ministers and is seen as a safe pair of hands by Liz Truss.
Former soldier and Member of the Scottish Parliament, Ben Wallace is likely to continue in the role of Secretary of State for Defence, where he has gained wide experience and considerable plaudits. He was deeply critical of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and has claimed that Putin is unlikely ever to succeed in Ukraine. He was seen as a contender for the job of prime minister by many of his MP colleagues but declined to stand.
Kemi Badenoch, who did well in the Tory leadership race, is my best bet for Education Secretary. She was Minister of State for Local Government, Faith and communities under Boris Johnson and as vehemently anti-woke, has endeared herself to Liz Truss. Rishi Sunak was hotly tipped for the job of Health Secretary but has ruled out serving in a Truss cabinet. I therefore tip Ranil Jayawardena for the health job. Jayawardena is currently the Under-Secretary of State for International Trade and was a former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party.
I think the Environment Secretary’s post is likely to go to Chloe Smith, who has been strongly tipped to land a cabinet post under Truss. She will replace George Eustace, who backed Rishi Sunak. Smith is currently the minister for disabled people and her elevation to the cabinet is long overdue. I think Penny Mordaunt, who was a leading contender for the job of prime minister, will be given the job of Culture Secretary, as a welcome change from Nadine Dorries, while the job of Chief Whip may well see the surprise re-emergence of former Tory Party boss Iain Duncan Smith.
Tom Tugendhat may be appointed Security Minister by Truss. As a leading One Nation Tory, he is seen as more of a centrist Conservative and Liz Truss will want him in her cabinet to maintain a left-right balance. Tugendhat, a former soldier, was knocked out in the third round of voting in the leadership contest and is regarded as highly intelligent, articulate and energetic. Most Westminster pundits believe that Alister Jack will retain his role as Scottish Secretary and I see his position, as a long-standing Boris loyalist like Liz Truss, as unassailable.
My surprise projection for a specialist role in the next cabinet is Michael Gove. Although Gove has said he no longer wishes to serve in the cabinet and is returning to the back benches, his ministerial expertise is an invaluable asset and Truss should keep him close. It is my firm belief that the next prime minister should set up a special Department for the Union, tasked with keeping the UK together and maintaining four key sections covering the single market, fiscal benefits, control of key local institutions and joint UK international actions. Having served in the cabinet under three prime ministers, Aberdeen-born Gove would be the ideal Secretary of State in that key role.