BORIS Johnson will today begin the process of driving forward the promotion of women in Government with a raft of new female appointments as he undertakes a reshuffle of his Cabinet and a shake-up of junior and middle-ranking ministers.
With Andrea Leadsom, the Business Secretary, Theresa Villiers, the Environment Secretary, and Therese Coffey, the Work and Pensions Secretary, all tipped to lose their Cabinet roles, Downing St made clear there was not expected to be a reduction in the number of women at the top table. Currently, eight women attend Cabinet.
This means that at least three women will be promoted to Cabinet. Rising stars Helen Whately, the Culture Minister, and Victoria Atkins, the Home Office Minister, have been predicted to get promotions.
Downing St also suggested a number of other women MPs were expected to be promoted, including Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the Armed Forces Minister, Suella Braverman, the Brexit Minister, and backbencher Gillian Keegan, the MP for Chichester.
As part of a drive to promote a generation of female talent, the Prime Minister will make changes at junior ministerial level that will likely result in a 50/50 gender balance split among junior ministers, so-called Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State.
By the summer, it is expected that at least 60 per cent of all Government Parliamentary Private Secretaries’ roles – the first rung on the ministerial ladder – will be held by female MPs with the recruitment of newer MPs to these positions taking place in the coming weeks. Currently, the figure of female PPSs is only 18 per cent.
No 10 explained the drive to promote female talent at both parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and Minister of State level will make it easier for Government to ensure that more Cabinet positions are held by women in the future.
It noted that female MPs from recent parliamentary intakes will be given ministerial experience that would make them well-placed for future promotions.
It is also believed that Oliver Dowden, the Cabinet Office Minister, and Alok Sharma, the International Development Secretary, are expected to be promoted, possibly to the Culture and Environment portfolios.
None of the major offices of state, the Chancellor, the Foreign Secretary, and the Home Secretary, is expected to be changed.
Mr Johnson was in Downing St last night putting the finishing touches to his reshuffle. It is thought it will begin early on Thursday morning with those losing their jobs being told first. It is then expected that the new appointees will make the famous walk up Downing St. Junior and middle-ranking ministerial changes are expected to take place on Friday.
A No 10 source said: “The PM wants this reshuffle to set the foundations for Government now and in the future. He wants to promote a generation of talent that will be promoted further in the coming years.
“He will reward those MPs who have worked hard to deliver on this Government’s priorities to level up the whole country and deliver the change people voted for last year.”
One suggested promotion has been for Chloe Smith, the Minister for the Constitution, who, it is said, could be promoted to the Minister for the Union, taking a place at the Cabinet table. But one senior source questioned this, saying: “We already have a Minister for the Union and it is Boris Johnson. Why would you want another one?”
Promotion of the Union will be “front and centre” of the Government shake-up, which will not, it is thought, be as deep as was originally suggested with any merger of departments coming later in the year.
One key development could involve the relationship between Downing St, the Cabinet Office and the Scotland Office in strengthening the Union. A new Department for the Union, however, has been ruled out.
Meanwhile, the appointment of a new President for the COP26 green summit in Glasgow is also expected to be made. Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office Minister, has been widely tipped for the role. However, it is thought the Scot has had his eyes on the role of Trade Secretary to lead the trade talks with the EU.