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Pincher survives as ruthless Johnson reshuffle concludes

Boris Johnson's sudden and unexpectedly ruthless Cabinet reshuffle, which drew comparisons with Margaret Thatcher's 'purge of the wets' in 1981, ended with most of the same people in the same positions at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The reshuffle, which came out of the blue on Wednesday lunchtime and continued throughout yesterday, saw three high-profile ministers sacked and another one, Dominic Raab, demoted to Justice Secretary.

The PM said he wanted to refresh his Cabinet to build a 'strong and united' team to build back better from the pandemic and bring more women and younger MPs into Cabinet positions, but some have suspected it was also in part a show of strength by Johnson after a series of recent difficulties including Afghanistan and tax rises to pay for social care.


One of those ministers to go was Robert Jenrick, who paid for a series of scandals - which included the alleged breaking of lockdown rules and the approving of a major scheme led by billionaire Richard Desmond, which was subsequently found to be unlawful - by losing his job early on Wednesday afternoon.

A few hours later he was replaced by Michael Gove - one of the most experienced, but also one of the most controversial, Cabinet ministers - who took over as Housing Secretary.

The team below him will largely be the same as Jenrick had to work with, as the generally low-profile Christopher Pincher - in place as Housing Minister since February 2020 - and other junior ministers kept their jobs. However, Luke Hall - previously Minister of State for Regional and Local Government - was fired.

There were also two additions to the department, with Kemi Badenoch, MP for Saffron Walden since 2017, securing a promotion to Minister of State, taking on the role of Minister for Levelling Up at MHCLG, while Neil O'Brien - a former No 10 aide and think-tank chief, and the MP for Harborough since 2017 - became Parliamentary Under Secretary of State.

The makeup of MHCLG is now as follows:

Secretary of State for Housing, Michael Gove

Minister of State for Housing, Christopher Pincher

Minister of State for Building Safety and Communities (jointly with the Home Office), Lord Greenhalgh

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Housing and Rough Sleeping, Eddie Hughes

Minister of State at MHCLG, jointly with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Minister for Equalities), Kemi Badenoch

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Neil O’Brien

Some in the industry have expressed concerns that Gove's wide brief, which includes him keeping the role of Minister of the Union and in charge of the government's levelling-up agenda, could see housing get less of a look-in, while others have welcomed his reformer instincts.

"Michael Gove is known as a Whitehall big-hitter with a reputation for rocking the boat so we may well see some changes. However, the reality is probably more of the same tired, recycled rhetoric around housing policy," James Forrester, managing director of Barrows and Forrester, said.

"Expect to see more initiatives focussed on fuelling buyer demand to keep house prices buoyant and very little in terms of actually addressing the need for more housing."

He added: "In recent times, those charged with addressing the current housing crisis have lasted less time in their post than it takes to sell a house. No wonder the sector has been riddled with scandal and an inability to reach housing targets.”

Gove is now the third different Housing Secretary in three years, following on from Robert Jenrick and James Brokenshire. Since housing was added to the Communities & Local Government brief and the new Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government was formed in Janaury 2018, there have been four different ministers in post (Sajid Javid, Brokenshire, Jenrick and now Gove).

The position of Housing Minister has been even more of a carousel, with Pincher being the 17th incumbent since 2001, which made it a slight surprise that there was no upheaval for this role in the latest reshuffle.

The team at MHCLG are set to face a busy few years, with issues concerning everything from cladding, leasehold and housebuilding to ROPA, rental reform, the transformation of the home buying and selling process, and planning changes jostling for position in Gove's in-tray.


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