United Kingdom: Boris Johnson reshuffles his government to restore political health

After a year and a half of a very painful Covid-19 crisis for the United Kingdom and a much criticized departure from Afghanistan, and as Brexit disrupts the country’s supplies, the head of the Conservative government is looking for a second wind. After weeks of rumors, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided to reshuffle his government on Wednesday September 15 to form a “United team” in view of the post-epidemic.

Among the heavyweights of the government that the press said threatened, the head of diplomacy, Dominic Raab, is replaced. He became Minister of Justice with the title of Deputy Prime Minister, a position he had held de facto until then, leading the government in the spring of 2020 when Boris Johnson, sick with Covid-19, had been hospitalized.

The 47-year-old liberal was criticized for his inaction during the Afghan crisis, staying on vacation in Crete as Kabul fell to the Taliban in mid-August. He then seemed to blame the army for certain mistakes made during the evacuations. Foreign Trade Minister Liz Truss, 46, replaces him in this strategic post, as the UK seeks to strengthen its place on the international stage after Brexit.

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Education Minister Gavin Williamson is leaving government as predicted by his handling of school closures during lockdowns and the exam fiasco that followed, along with Justice Robert Buckland and the housing, Robert Jenrick. The darling of the conservative press, the young and popular finance minister, Rishi Sunak, 41, has however been confirmed.

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The Minister of the Interior, Priti Patel, yet given the hot seat given her inability to reduce the arrivals of illegal migrants through the Channel, was also confirmed in her functions.

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Decline in popularity of conservatives

Downing Street presented the reshuffle as a way to “Put in place a strong and united team to build back better after the pandemic”, with for “Objective to unite and level up the whole country”. This announcement comes at a delicate time for the 57-year-old head of government, who came to the post of prime minister in the summer of 2019 and largely won the legislative elections of December 2019 with the promise to achieve Brexit, voted in 2016 but then in dead end.

A recent poll by the YouGov institute showed a fall in popularity of the Conservatives (to 33%), overtaken by the Labor Party (35%) for the first time since the start of the year. The government is paying in particular for the announcement of an increase in social security contributions intended to bail out the public health system, brought down by the Covid-19 epidemic, and to reform the dependency sector. This brings the level of taxes to the highest since the post-WWII era, despite the Conservatives’ election promise not to raise taxes.

The World with AFP

www.lemonde.fr

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