No 10 sources have confirmed Boris Johnson will reshuffle his cabinet on Wednesday afternoon, with ministers including Gavin Williamson, Dominic Raab and Priti Patel tipped to be moved.
A source said Johnson’s reshuffle would “put in place a strong and united team to build back better from the pandemic”. Cabinet ministers who are being sacked are expected to meet the prime minister after PMQs on Wednesday afternoon, with the final cabinet moves finalised during the day.
Johnson is also expected to undertake a significant reshuffle of his junior ranks, which could run into Thursday.
The source said the reshuffle was the second part of the plan to relaunch government strategy following the winter plan for Covid announced on Tuesday. “Yesterday the PM set out his plan for managing Covid during the autumn and winter,” the source said.
“But the government must also redouble our efforts to deliver on the people’s priorities. The PM will be appointing ministers this afternoon with a focus on uniting and levelling up the whole country.”
While reshuffle reports have focused on Patel and Raab, two cabinet sources have said they believe the prime minister will want to keep his home secretary and foreign secretary onside.
Both Patel and Raab have been the target of public criticism, for the handling of migrant boats by the Home Office and of the Afghanistan withdrawal by the Foreign Office, respectively.
However, Raab and Patel have been longtime loyal allies and are likely to resist a significant demotion. One cabinet source said they believed Raab was more likely of the two to be moved – to the Cabinet Office, where he would keep the title as first secretary of state.
Others who could be in line to move are Williamson, the education secretary, as well as the environment secretary, George Eustice, and the Welsh secretary, Simon Hart.
Johnson is known to be keen to have more geographic diversity in his cabinet, which is predominantly from constituencies in the south or Midlands.
He has previously pledged to have at least one woman in the four “great offices of state” which would mean at least one woman is likely to be promoted should Patel be moved. The most likely candidate is Liz Truss, a favourite of Tory members, who could replace Raab.
The reshuffle will leave new ministers with only a few weeks to prepare for Conservative party conference – and, most pressingly, for the government’s spending review, where departments have to make detail submissions to the Treasury.