London: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson began his era at 10 Downing Street with a swift and deep clean of the cabinet table, purging 17 former ministers and installing a right-wing staunchly pro-Brexit administration in short order.
Out are the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, and Jeremy Hunt, Johnson’s leadership rival. He refused to take on the Defence Secretary portfolio having served as Theresa May’s Foreign Secretary.
But Johnson, a man known for his ambition, messy blond hair, flowery oratory and cursory command of detail — must solve a series of riddles if he is to succeed where his predecessor Theresa May failed. The 2016 Brexit referendum showed a United Kingdom divided about much more than the EU, and has fuelled soul-searching about everything from immigration to capitalism, the legacy of empire and modern Britishness. The pound is weak, the economy at risk of recession, allies are in despair at the Brexit crisis and foes are testing Britain’s vulnerability.
Johnson’s dramatic rise to Britain’s top job sets the world’s fifth largest economy up for a showdown with the EU and a potential constitutional crisis at home, as lawmakers have vowed to thwart a no-deal Brexit. Britain’s new leader promised to do a new Brexit deal with the bloc within less than 99 days but warned that if EU leaders refused then Britain would leave without a deal, “no ifs or buts”.
While United Kingdom grapples with its apparent disunity, Johnson’s new cabinet, while pro-Brexit, is among the most inclusive and diverse of recent times.
He has appointed three Indian-origin leaders — Priti Patel as Home Secretary, Alok Sharma as the International Development Secretary and Rishi Sunak as the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and reshuffled Pakistan-origin leader Sajid Javid as the new Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Here is a look at the diverse cabinet table:
Savid Javid: Chancellor of the Exchequer
The man in charge of UK finances is the son of a Pakistani who arrived in Britain with just £1 — Dh4.58 — in his pocket and landed a job as a bus driver in Rochdale. The family later moved to Bristol to open a small shop. Javid had been a Remainer when he served as Home Secretary — the UK’s interior minister — under former Prime Minister Theresa May. He had been an investment banker before entering politics, and is considered a rising star within the Conservative Party. He ran against in the leadership contest but supported Johnson once eliminated.
Priti Patel: Home Secretary
The 47-year old is the daughter of Ugandan-Indian parents and holds the powerful post of Home Secretary — the UK’s interior minister — responsible for policing and immigration policies among others. She had served as International Development Minister in May’s cabinet but resigned in 2017 over unauthorised visits to Israel. She is a former lobbyist for the alcohol and tobacco industry and is an ardent Brexiteer. Patel was a trenchant critic of May’s EU divorce deal — voting against it all three times in parliament and thereby helping to end her tenure in office. She is a right-winger, voting against same-sex marriage and expressing support for the death penalty in the past — although she says she has since changed her mind.
Alok Sharma: International Development
The 51-year-old represents the Reading West constituency just west of London and moved there with his parents from Agra, India, when he was five years’ old. He’s a former chartered accountant and banker who was an early and staunch supporter of Boris Johnson and is a committed Brexiteer. He had been May’s employment minister.
James Cleverly: Conservative party Chairman
The 49-year-old represents the riding of Braintree in Essex and has a British father and a mother from Sierra Leone. He had served as the party’s deputy chairman and junior Brexit minister in May’s cabinet. He is a former officer in the Royal Artillery, He briefly entered the race to replace May but dropped out, saying UK wasn’t ready for a mixed-race PM.
Rishi Sunak: Chief Secretary to the Treasury
The junior minister is a third-generation British citizen who represents the affluent constituency of Richmond on London’s western edge on the south of the River Thames. He is married to Akshata Murthy, the daughter of Indian businessman and billionaire N.R. Narayana Murthy. A Brexiteer, this is his first appointment to a cabinet position.
Kwasi Kwarteng: Minister for Business, Energy and Industry
The MP for Spelthorne on the southern edge of London is the British-born son of parents who moved to the UK from Ghana in the 1960s. He had previously served in the May cabinet as a junior Brexit minister and has written books on the historical, political and economic consequences of the British Empire. He supports Brexit.