Boris Johnson has warned ministers to focus on their jobs instead of the television cameras to ‘get policy done’ – or get the sack.
The PM’s threat comes as the Conservative party chairman James Cleverly confirmed the government has plans to move the House of Lords to York as part of wide-scale reforms to “level-up” post-Brexit Britain.
“Trust me, we’re going to radical,” Cleverly told Sky News’ Ridge on Sunday, explaining the Lords’ move to York was part of a “whole range of options” the government was looking at to make “sure every part of the UK is properly connected with politics.”
‘Extraordinary move breaks with tradition’
Cleverly’s comments follow the PM’s warning to ministers of a major cabinet reshuffle “within weeks”, described by the Guardian as “an extraordinary move” which “represents a break with tradition” and effective power grab by Number 10.
Johnson – in a plan agreed with his special advisor Dominic Cummings – will tell ministers to concentrate on the “delivery” of policies to “level up” the country post-Brexit instead of touring TV studios and trying to build their own profiles – or face firing from their Whitehall posts.
Officials at No. 10 have confirmed a cabinet reshuffle in February – tradition is normally to “refuse to comment” on such matters – which, “has, in effect, put ministers on probation” with instructions on how best “to avoid the axe”, says the Guardian.
The head of Downing Street’s policy unit Munira Mirza will write to ministers stating the PM’s “key demand” is delivering his agenda.
Johnson himself has asked officials to limit his international commitments during 2020 so that he can focus on domestic policies, seen by the Independent as a move to “cement his support among voters in Labour’s former heartlands” whose ballots secured his Commons’ majority.
Part of a major constitutional review
A major part of the prime minister’s agenda, shaped by Cummings, is set to be constitutional reform. The Sunday Times report the government is undertaking a major constitutional review which will include looking at the Supreme Court, Lord Chancellor and the House of Lords.
The Sunday Times say York has “emerged as the frontrunner to host the new second chamber, with Birmingham also in the running” and that Johnson last week ordered officials to assess the viability of the move.
The Palace of Westminster – which houses both the Commons and Lords – will be vacated in 2025 for renovation work expected to take several years, requiring MPs and peers to find alternative chambers.
The possibility of some 800 Lords moving to York has been largely welcomed by the city with Labour MP for York Central, Rachel Maskell describing it as an “incredible” idea.
“We would get the infrastructure improvements, particularly for transport,” said Maskell. “It would create hundreds, thousands of jobs, good quality jobs.”