Rishi Sunak has appointed Greg Hands, one of his loyal supporters, to be the new Conservative party chairman to replace Iraqi-born Nadhim Zahawi.
The latter was fired because he broke the ministerial code by not telling the prime minister he was being investigated by the tax authorities.
A reporter cheekily asked Hands, who has hitherto been minister of state at the department of international trade and now has the task of readying the party for the general election, whether his taxes were “in order”.
“They most definitely are!” he replied.
The BBC said it didn’t want to pun but the new man was “a safe pair of hands”.
Hands tweeted: “I joined the Party in 1986 – a ward chairman in 1992, a councillor in 1998, a Group Leader in 1999, an MP in 2005, a Minister in 2011 – an honour to chair it in 2023! The work starts right away.”
Rishi had made big changes to four government departments.
Kemi Badenoch, who was negotiating the Free Trade Agreement with India as international trade secretary, becomes the new secretary of state for business and trade.
It is being assumed she will still be in charge of the FTA.
The prime minister’s spokesman explained “that business and trade naturally go together and that when you’re planning trade deals to benefit UK business it makes sense to link them together under one secretary of state so there’s a clearer line of responsibility.”
There is now a new department solely to deal with the energy crisis exacerbated by the Ukraine war. This will be headed by another Rishi loyalist, Grant Shapps, whose old department – business, energy and industrial strategy – is being broken up.
He becomes the new secretary of state for the department for energy security and net zero.
“My focus will be securing our long-term energy supply, bringing down bills and thereby helping to halve inflation,” said Shapps.
Lucy Frazer, a former barrister who has been housing and planning minister, becomes secretary of state for the revamped department for culture, media, sport, which will “recognise the importance of these industries to our economy and build on the UK’s position as a global leader in the creative arts”.
The outgoing culture secretary, Michelle Donelan, who will soon be taking “a short maternity leave”, is the new secretary of state for science, innovation and technology.
Rishi said the changes will “focus teams on the issues that will build a better future for our children and grandchildren. The government needs to reflect the priorities of the British people and be designed to deliver for them.”
Some commentators rushed to judgement even before studying the changes.
In the Daily Telegraph, Janet Daley said sourly: “Well that was exciting wasn’t it? Not. Rishi Sunak has confirmed his reputation as a political leader who is much more interested in detail than in vision. There is nothing here to suggest that his government has a dream: a conception of the future for the country that might inspire or even vaguely interest anyone who sees politics as potentially life-changing.”
Life after Boris Johnson without partygate is decidedly dull for journalists. The only right action Rishi could take would be to resign and pave the way for the return of either Boris or, better still, Liz Truss with her tax cutting zeal. That she crashed the economy has been forgotten. The Sunday Telegraph gave her space at the weekend to write a 4,000-word “I was right” essay. Her critics called her “delusional”.