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Boris Johnson offers ‘pep talk’ to new Cabinet at first meeting

The National logo The National 17/09/2021 Laura O'Callaghan
Boris Johnson, Stephen Barclay looking at each other: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave ministers a pep-talk at the first Cabinet meeting after his reshuffle this week. AP © Ben Stansall Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave ministers a pep-talk at the first Cabinet meeting after his reshuffle this week. AP

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has welcomed his new Cabinet for the first post-reshuffle meeting at 10 Downing Street, and offered a “half-time pep talk” to drum up team spirit.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who replaced Dominic Raab, was seen arriving for her first round-table discussion in the top post after being promoted from International Trade Secretary.

As Mr Johnson prepares to take the country into the autumn and winter with his Covid master plan, he sought to encourage a sense of unity among his new Cabinet appointees.

He told members who had survived the cull they remained at the table on “merit” but the time had come to double down on their efforts to help the public.

This morning he told them: “This is, if you like, the half-time pep talk.

“This is the moment when we spit out the orange peel, we adjust our gum shields and our scrum caps.

“And we get out on to the pitch in the knowledge that we’re going to have to do it together and we’re going to have to do it as a team.”

Flanked at the Cabinet table by Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to his right and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak to his left, Mr Johnson told his new team they had “worked incredibly hard, but I want you to work even harder now.”

He appeared in good spirits as he made jokes and deployed metaphors in his opening speech to the ministers, all of whom were not wearing face masks.

He quipped about his own family and the large family of House of Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, saying: “I’m just thinking about delivery, I’ve seen a few delivery rooms, probably seen as many delivery rooms as anybody in this … Apart from the exception of Jacob.”

He added: “I know that delivery normally involves a superhuman effort by at least one person in the room.

“But there are plenty of other people in that room who are absolutely indispensable to that successful outcome.”

Mr Rees-Mogg, who also serves as Lord President of the Council, has six children.

Mr Johnson, who is expecting his second child with his third wife Carrie Johnson, has fathered at least six children.

Mr Raab sat opposite the Prime Minister, next to his successor Ms Truss and new Housing Secretary Michael Gove, who replaced Robert Jenrick.

This week’s reshuffle also saw Gavin Williamson axed as Education Secretary and Robert Buckland sacked from his Justice Secretary post.

Mr Buckland was replaced by Mr Raab in a significant demotion for the former Foreign Secretary.

Mr Raab was also given the title of Deputy Prime Minister, which was seen as little more than a consolation prize after losing one of the “great offices of state”.

The move followed heavy criticism of Mr Raab’s handling of the Afghanistan crisis, and heavy flak over his decision to remain on holiday in Crete while the Taliban advanced on Kabul in August.

Last night Downing Street insisted Mr Raab would continue to play an “important senior role” in government despite his demotion.

Downing Street refused to be drawn on reports that Mr Raab had resisted the change during a tense conversation with the Mr Johnson on Wednesday.

However, Mr Johnson’s official spokesman insisted it had been a “planned move” and that the Esher and Walton MP’s new title reflected the Prime Minister’s continuing trust in him.

“This formalises Dominic Raab’s position as the Prime Minister’s deputy — he will stand in for him at PMQs; it demonstrates his seniority within Government and the trust the Prime Minister places with him,” the spokesman said.

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