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Rishi Sunak’s Cabinet reshuffle: Who’s in and who’s out, from Ben Wallace to Grant Shapps

Rishi Sunak faces a challenging by-election test this autumn after Nadine Dorries quit her Commons seat (Euan Duff/PA) (Euan Duff / PA)
Rishi Sunak faces a challenging by-election test this autumn after Nadine Dorries quit her Commons seat (Euan Duff/PA) (Euan Duff / PA)

Rishi Sunak has started another reshuffle after his defence secretary Ben Wallace announced his resignation from the Cabinet.

A reshuffle means that Sunak is changing the structure of his Cabinet and the politicians within it. While it might mean that some MPs are removed from the Cabinet, it also means others might be promoted to high-profile leadership roles.

The reshuffle has already prompted some responses from other politicians, including Labour shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry who said: “They are just reshuffling the deckchairs — the ship is going down.”

In the past few hours, some Conservative hopefuls have been spotted around Downing Street, as the PM carefully reshuffled his inner circle. So, who is in and who is out?


Claire Coutinho as Secretary of State for Energy Security

Claire Coutinho (Stefan Rousseau / PA)
Claire Coutinho (Stefan Rousseau / PA)

Claire Coutinho, 38, is entering Sunak’s Cabinet as the Secretary of State for Energy Security. She will be replacing Grant Shapps, who is the new Defence Secretary.

Considered a rising star, she has steadily climbed through the ranks since her appointment to Parliament in 2019. As well as being a staunch supporter of Sunak, she might also become the youngest cabinet member on his team.

What were her past roles?

Coutinho worked at Merrill Lynch investment bank before joining the Centre for Social Justice. She then became a special adviser to the Treasury, further cementing her position in the political arena.

She was elected as representative for East Surrey in 2019, a safe constituency for the Conservative Party. Coutinho had a brief spell as a junior minister in the Department for Work and Pensions before most recently taking on a children’s minister role.

What is Claire Coutinho’s policy positioning?

Coutinho backed Sunak in the leadership race in 2022. However, her appointment comes as Sunak’s government faces mounting criticism over the scaleback of environmental commitments.

As Energy Secretary, Coutinho will be expected to play a role in energy and net-zero commitments. However, according to They Work For You, Coutinho has “generally voted against measures to prevent climate change”.

She has also expressed opposition to the expansion of the Ulez.

Speaking about her appointment, Coutinho said: “I am delighted to have been appointed Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero. I will work with the Prime Minister to safeguard our energy security, reduce bills for families, and build cleaner, cheaper, homegrown energy.”


Grant Shapps as Secretary of State for Defence

The new Defence Secretary Grant Shapps takes over the role at a key time (Victoria Jones / PA)
The new Defence Secretary Grant Shapps takes over the role at a key time (Victoria Jones / PA)

Grant Shapps was the first minister confirmed as part of Sunak’s Cabinet reshuffle. Moving over from energy secretary, he’ll now assume the role of defence secretary in replacement of outgoing Ben Wallace.

Shapps’ appointment to the role may have come as a surprise to some. The minister doesn’t have former experience in the military. However, he did visit the capital of Ukraine last week and wrote on social media about Russia’s aggression.

What were his past roles?

Shapps has been in five Cabinet roles within the last year. He previously served as transport secretary, home secretary, business secretary, and energy secretary.

Prior to stepping into politics, Shapps operated multiple businesses. He unsuccessfully stood as a Conservative candidate in multiple elections before he finally became an MP in 2005. Following this, he served in several ministerial roles and as Conservative Party co-chairman.

What is his policy positioning?

Although Shapps doesn’t bring a military background to the role, he has spoken publicly about the Ukrainian invasion and foreign affairs.

He wrote on Twitter: “As I get to work at @DefenceHQ I am looking forward to working with the brave men and women of our Armed Forces who defend our nation’s security. And continuing the UK’s support for Ukraine in their fight against Putin’s barbaric invasion.”

According to They Work For You, Shapps’ has “almost always voted for use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas” and “almost always voted for replacing Trident with a new nuclear weapons system”.


Ben Wallace as Defence Secretary


Ben Wallace announced his resignation from the Cabinet on August 31. He had been Secretary of State for Defence for four years, making him the longest-serving Conservative politician to hold the position.

In his resignation letter, Wallace explained: “Ever since I joined the Army I have dedicated myself to serving my country. That dedication however comes at a personal toll to me and my family.”

He added: “After much reflection, I have taken the decision to ask that I be allowed to step down. I won my seat in 2005 and after so many years it is time for me to invest in the parts of life that I have neglected, and to explore new opportunities.”