Boris Johnson poised to wield axe on cabinet under-performers in reshuffle

Boris Johnson is poised to take the axe to his cabinet, with a major reshuffle expected this afternoon.

Senior figures thought to be at risk in the first major reshuffle of Mr Johnson’s premiership include education secretary Gavin Williamson and foreign secretary Dominic Raab.

And home secretary Priti Patel has been tipped by some in Westminster as a candidate for the chop, after her failure to stop the growing numbers of small boats bringing refugees across the Channel from France.

Mr Johnson has only days left to complete the reshaping of his top team before he heads to the US for a speech at the United Nations General Assembly early next week.

And he will be pleased to be able to distract attention from the Commons debate and vote called by Labour this afternoon on the upcoming £1,000-a-year cut in Universal Credit payments.

It is expected that Mr Johnson will call ministers facing the sack to his private office in the House of Commons following the weekly session of prime minister’s questions, sparing them the ordeal of walking up Downing Street in front of TV cameras.

Senior appointments are expected to be made this afternoon, with more junior ranks filled on Thursday.

Mr Williamson’s position has long been under threat after a series of calamities over exams and school reopening.

And Mr Raab has been put at risk by his decision to remain on holiday as Afghanistan fell to the Taliban.

But it would be a virtually unprecedented development for a prime minister to sack his effective deputy – a position which Raab holds as First Secretary of State.

Ministers thought to be under consideration for promotion including grassroots darling Liz Truss, chief whip Mark Spencer and Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who lost her cabinet rank when her Department for International Development was merged with the Foreign Office.

Today and tomorrow are effectively Mr Johnson’s last opportunity to reshape his team before the crucial Conservative annual conference in early October.

Delaying until after his return from the US would give new ministers only days to master their briefs before giving high-profile speeches in front of the TV cameras in Manchester.

Mr Johnson has so far been reluctant to sack senior colleagues, many of whom have been allies since the Brexit referendum campaign. He held on to housing secretary Robert Jenrick when his position was questioned over links with developer Richard Desmond.

His biggest government shake-up since entering Downing Street – the post-election revamp of February 2020 – became a major reshuffle only as a result of then chancellor Sajid Javid quitting rather than see his advisers fall under the control of Dominic Cummings in No 10.

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