FleishmanHillard UK Analysis: Rishi's reshuffle

The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak has reshuffled several members of his Cabinet today along with reconfiguring the responsibilities of several Government Departments. Although many commentators noted that the Prime Minister would have to follow through following the sacking of his Party Chairman, Nadhim Zahawi, several have been surprised by the extent of today’s changes.

Reshuffles are a reminder and a test of the Prime Minister’s authority which largely rests on two things: the power of patronage (and the ability to keep friends close and enemies closer) and the ability to deliver against a coherent vision for the country. How do the changes today deliver against that criteria?

On the first point, it confirms that the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab are going nowhere – a sign perhaps that the Prime Minister has reconciled himself to his limited room for manoeuvre. On the second point, reorganising the remits of Government Departments will result in disruption to existing policy frameworks. However, maybe Sunak has calculated that he needs to make the changes now ahead of the budget and provide his lieutenants around the cabinet table with a clear pathway to the next general election. Only time will tell.

Whitehall Changes

Department for Energy, Security and Net Zero 

This new department’s duties include lowering costs, reducing inflation, and safeguarding the UK’s long-term energy supply.  This department acknowledges both the necessity of securing more energy from domestic nuclear and renewable sources in order to take advantage of the opportunities presented by net zero. The formation of this department comes at a critical time for the UK’s energy and climate policy landscape with Ministers required, by the High Court, to deliver an updated Net Zero Strategy by the end of March 2023.

Department  for  Science,  Innovation  and Technology

This new department aims to position the UK as the most progressive economy in the world, and is devoted to transforming scientific and technological advances into usable, applicable solutions. It takes on responsibility for the Online Safety Bill, (from DCMS) which is a key piece of the Government’s manifesto, as well as putting resources against those high-performing industries and sectors flagged by the Chancellor in his recent growth speech. This department is seen as one of the most important in Government by Sunak.

Department for Business and Trade

This department was created as a result of Sunak’s decision to eliminate the Department of International Trade and reform the Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy. It will encourage investment, advocate free trade, and help British companies both domestically and overseas. It is effectively a merging of DIT and BEIS and is alone in charge of UK trade.

Department for Culture, Media and Sport

This department replaces the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and will be refocused to take into account the value of these sectors to the UK economy and strengthen the UK’s position as a world leader in the creative industries. The removal of “digital” enables a stronger emphasis on the arts and results in a department that is overall smaller.

Companies and organisations will now re-present their agendas to new teams of Ministers, officials and advisors and explore the potential for these changes in the machinery of Government to accelerate or delay their policy concerns accordingly.

Jessica Kent, junior account executive

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