The Daily Telegraph
Sunak picks Remainer to lead Tories into election
Greg Hands asked to steer party to safe ground as energy, trade and culture departments remodelled
RISHI SUNAK yesterday appointed a loyalist who campaigned to keep Britain in the European Union as the new Conservative Party chairman in a minireshuffle alongside creating four new government departments.
Greg Hands, who leaves his post as trade minister, warned before the 2016 referendum that quitting the EU single market would mean “fewer jobs, higher prices in our shops and less money for our public services like our NHS”.
The Chelsea and Fulham MP, who backed Mr Sunak for the Tory leadership last year, fills a vacancy created by Nadhim Zahawi’s sacking and will play a central role preparing the party for the next general election, expected in 2024.
Lee Anderson, who has been dubbed the “Red Wall rottweiler” for his outspoken attitude, was appointed alongside Mr Hands as Tory deputy chairman.
Mr Anderson in the past has attracted controversy for criticising England footballers for taking the knee and saying food bank users “cannot budget”.
The two appointments were the most eye-catching moves on a morning in which the Prime Minister reorganised a number of government departments in an attempt to better achieve the five priorities set for his early premiership.
Dominic Raab, the under-fire Deputy Prime Minister, was not moved. An investigation into bullying allegations – which he denies – is ongoing, with the inquiries to be completed before any decisions are made by Downing Street.
Michael Gove, the Levelling Up Secretary, will remain in post, after indicating he was not interested in heading up one of the new departments. A source close to Mr Gove said no formal offer had been made and he did not discuss the matter with Mr Sunak.
There was a backlash from some Tory MPS that Mr Sunak had not followed through on his summer Tory leadership pledge to create a minister for the North. The cost of the shake-up was also questioned after the Institute for Government estimated that it would cost the taxpayer £100 million – though Downing Street disputed such price tags.
Mr Sunak said of his Whitehall shakeup: “The Government needs to reflect the priorities of the British people and be designed to deliver for them. These changes will focus teams on the issues that will build a better future for our children and grandchildren.”
Mr Sunak changed where responsibilities were held in three departments: the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; the Department for International Trade; and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
As a result, four new government departments have emerged.
One is called the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, which delivers on an ambition Mr Sunak announced during his leadership bid. Grant Shapps, who had been business secretary, will head up this department.
The change reflects the heightened focus put on energy in recent years, both in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February and the wider drive to make the UK a “net zero” carbon emitted by 2050.
The second will be called the Department for Business and Trade. Kemi Badenoch, who had been the international trade secretary, will take that brief.
It means the stand-alone Department of International Trade, which was created by Theresa May to strike trade deals after the Brexit vote in 2016, is merging with other business portfolios.
A government press release said the new department will “support growth by backing British businesses at home and abroad, promoting investment and championing free trade”.
A third change involves streamlining the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The department had been responsible for digital issues, but appears to have lost that brief. It will be headed up by Lucy Frazer, formerly the minister for housing and planning.
There has also been the creation of a wholly new government department: the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.