Rishi Sunak’s high-profile allies have been sacked from their Cabinet roles en masse to make way for Liz Truss loyalists.
Dominic Raab, Grant Shapps, Steve Barclay and George Eustice – the four most prominent backers of Mr Sunak in the Cabinet – were all asked to leave government on Tuesday night.
Greg Clark, the Levelling Up Secretary, was also sacked after just eight weeks in the job, having not backed either candidate in the final two of the Tory leadership race.
Mr Raab, who was Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary, was the first casualty of the Truss administration.
He will be joined on the back benches by Mr Shapps, the former Transport Secretary, who had been tipped to remain in the Cabinet, despite supporting Mr Sunak in the leadership race.
Meanwhile Mr Barclay, who was Health Secretary, and Mr Eustice, who held the environment brief, have also been banished from front-line politics.
The clear out of Mr Sunak’s acolytes came despite calls from Tory MPs who urged Ms Truss to reunite the party by appointing some of her leadership rival’s backers to Cabinet posts – rather than just filling the top roles with her own supporters.
By removing senior figures who failed to back her, she risks setting herself up for a future headache with some powerful potential critics on the back benches.
Senior Tories refuse roles
Meanwhile, several senior Tory figures also turned down jobs in Ms Truss’s new Cabinet, including former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who played a prominent role in her campaign.
The former Work and Pensions Secretary, who is understood to have been offered the role of Leader of the Commons, opted to remain on the back benches.
“I have been offered [a job] and said I won’t be taking it up. I’m going back to the back benches again,” Sir Iain said on BBC Radio 4’s The World At One programme.
“I am very happy to support her. Sometimes in life you have got to figure out whether you add value to a particular job that you are being asked to do. It is all about what I can do and I am very happy to be on the back benches for the moment.”
Sir Iain has been a back bench MP since 2016 and has championed a range of causes, including work to highlight the security threats posed by China.
He will be joined by Nadine Dorries, who resigned as Culture Secretary saying she was “humbled” to have been asked by Ms Truss to remain in post but had declined.
Ms Dorries – who has been tipped for a peerage on Boris Johnson’s honours list – promised to show the new Prime Minister “loyalty and support”.
And the Telegraph understands that Lord Frost, the former Brexit negotiator, will not be in Liz Truss’s first Cabinet after turning down two roles.
Meanwhile, Lord Frost was sounded out about the role of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, once occupied by Michael Gove, but rejected it because Ms Truss wants the job to be far more narrowly focused than in Mr Gove’s time.
Ms Truss’s team also raised the possibility of making Lord Frost the Leader of the House of Lords, but he told them he would be the wrong person for the job because it should go to someone who has been a peer for much longer than his two years.
Johnny Mercer, who was sacked as veterans’ affairs minister, left with a parting swipe at the Government. He said in a statement that ex-servicemen have been “so badly let down” by Whitehall, adding that it was nothing more than a “hollow promise” to claim that the UK would be the “best country in the world” to be a veteran by 2028.
Mr Mercer, who did not declare whom he was backing in the leadership race, said he was “disappointed” to be leaving the front bench, but accepted the Prime Minister was “entitled to reward her supporters”.
The MP for Plymouth, Moor View also suggested he could quit the Commons, saying: “I have to accept that I will never possess the qualities required for enduring success in politics as it stands, and to be fair to my wonderful family, I must consider my future.”
Mr Mercer’s wife also lashed out at Ms Truss on Tuesday night, calling her an “imbecile” for sacking the “best person I know”.
Writing on Twitter, Felicity Cornelius-Mercer said the “system stinks and treats people appallingly”.
He asked her ‘why would you do this, who is going to be better at this role than me, which of your mates gets the job, you promised a meritocracy?’
PM – I can’t answer that Johnny
This system stinks & treats people appallingly
— Felicity Cornelius-Mercer (@mercer_felicity) September 6, 2022
She went on to sum up the parting conversation her husband had with the new Prime Minister.
“He asked her, ‘why would you do this, who is going to be better at this role than me, which of your mates gets the job, you promised a meritocracy?’ PM – I can’t answer that Johnny,” she wrote.
“Best person I know sacked by an imbecile @trussliz.”