The Daily Telegraph

A big opportunit­y for Kemi Badenoch


Critics might have dismissed Rishi Sunak’s reshuffle as little more than a rearrangin­g of the Whitehall deckchairs, but the Prime Minister believes that it will help the Government better deliver on its priorities. Indeed, he used the opportunit­y created by the need to appoint a new Conservati­ve Party chairman – now Greg Hands – to launch a broader rationalis­ation of several government department­s.

The changes have the virtue of making some logical sense. The former Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has been dismantled, with responsibi­lity for energy security and net zero handed to Grant Shapps. It might be thought that these two ambitions are in conflict – with the embrace of green technologi­es leaving the UK vulnerable to swings in internatio­nal energy prices – but at least this policy area will be the sole responsibi­lity of a single Cabinet minister.

A new department focused on science, innovation and technology, led by former culture secretary Michelle Donelan, also has some promise. Proponents of the change believe that government efforts in these areas have suffered from being insufficie­ntly joined up, although Ms Donelan will have to guard against the temptation to pick winners. Lucy Frazer, meanwhile, becomes secretary of state of a “refocused” Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which surely now becomes the leading candidate for abolition the next time a prime minister is seeking savings.

It is Kemi Badenoch, however, who has been given perhaps the most interestin­g challenge. On the face of it, the new Secretary of State for Business and Trade gains little from the reshuffle, given that much of the spending within the former BEIS department is set to travel with Mr Shapps to Energy. But Ms Badenoch is a rising star, and is unlikely to have accepted being sidelined.

Not only does she have a wider range over which to show her talents, but her new department also has an intriguing opportunit­y. In recent days, we have heard eloquent criticisms of the bean-counter mentality that has captured British institutio­ns, and of the endemic resistance towards reforms that might liberate the productive potential of the economy. There has been no department­al force within Whitehall with an explicit focus on economic growth. Could Ms Badenoch make her ministry the intellectu­al counterpoi­nt within government to a Treasury that has lost sight of what drives prosperity?

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