Incoming British prime minister Rishi Sunak is expected to keep Jeremy Hunt as chancellor of the exchequer as he seeks to calm markets and proceed with the treasury’s plans for a fiscal statement on October 31st.
Mr Sunak’s aides held talks on Monday about appointments to his first cabinet after the Conservative party leader promised his MPs he would lead a “government of all the talents”, people familiar with the discussions said.
Mr Sunak faces a challenge to balance rewarding loyalists who backed his two leadership campaigns this year, while ensuring party unity by including figures from across the warring Tory factions, the people said.
Reappointing Mr Hunt would mean a lesser role for two of Sunak’s longstanding backers Mel Stride and Steve Barclay, who had both been linked to the job. Mr Stride could be chief whip, or parliamentary enforcer, or possibly chief secretary to the treasury. Barclay could return as health secretary.
Penny Mordaunt, who dropped out of the Tory leadership race to leave Mr Sunak unopposed, is keen to become foreign secretary, according to an ally. However, the incumbent James Cleverly will be determined to keep hold of the job, though his case may be weakened by the fact he endorsed Boris Johnson’s extraordinary – but aborted – bid for a political comeback.
There is a similar decision to make at the Home Office, where current home secretary Grant Shapps is lobbying to remain in the role, while allies of his predecessor Suella Braverman, who was fired by Liz Truss and backed Mr Sunak for leader, say she would like to make a return.
Defence secretary Ben Wallace tweeted that he was giving his “full support” to Mr Sunak, although his allies have suggested he could resign if the new prime minister does not commit to the defence spending target of 3 per cent of GDP by 2030. Like Mr Cleverly, Mr Wallace backed Mr Johnson for the leadership.
Supporters of former cabinet ministers Matt Hancock, Michael Gove, Robert Jenrick and Dominic Raab suggested they would be keen on a return to frontline politics. Former chancellor Sajid Javid would only accept a senior job, according to one of his allies.
There could be a more senior job for Sunak-backer Kemi Badenoch, who was appointed trade secretary by Ms Truss but is said to be unhappy with the role. Mr Sunak is also expected to give a major position to former Tory chairman Oliver Dowden, a close political ally.
There could also be a promotion for Claire Coutinho, another Sunak backer who is seen as a rising star of the party. Two other key Sunak supporters, Gavin Williamson and Julian Smith, could also return to government. – Bloomberg