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Mayday Mayday Mayday

Today is gonna be the day
That they’re gonna throw it back to you
By now you should’ve somehow
Realized what you gotta do

Woah. Talk about the morning of the long knives. Ken Clarke described Teresa May as a “bloody difficult woman” – something I’m not entirely sure wasn’t a compliment – and the events of July 14 AM showed that she’s not going to sort stuff out over a cup of tea and a slice of lemon drizzle. More of a scythe than a cake fork, really.

Cameron went yesterday and George Osborne’s head was on a platter almost before Mrs May had wiped her kitten-heels on the Downing Street mat, to be replaced by former Defence secretary Philip Hammond.

As a parent of primary school age children, I was really rather pleased to see the departure of Michael Gove and Nicky Morgan who, I believe, have done real damage to education, even though the former, certainly, may have had the best of intentions. Maybe. And good riddance to that silly man Whittingdale who wanted to mess with Strictly Come Dancing.

Osborne and Gove were Cameron’s acolytes and if May hoped to be taken seriously as PM she had to be seen to be reshuffling with a vengeance. Out they went. Job done.

However. Boris as Foreign Secretary. Really? I can’t decide whether this is the stuff of madness or genius. Or the result of a secret deal, done behind closed doors, to really stick it to the loyalty-free zone that is Michael Gove. Or even, a ‘give a man enough rope’ cynical move to remove him from the political landscape for good once he’s had to resign for insulting some minor head of state. Like Hilary Clinton. It could even be a ‘you got us into this mess in the first place, you sort it out’.

Or. Or, or, or. It could be just the thing we need. Whatever else he came across as during the Brexit campaigning and aftermath, it was not as a small minded Little Englander in the same way that Nigel Farage did. We don’t need a Foreign Secretary who will be meek and mild and too diplomatic – we’ve got career diplomats for that. Rather, we now need one that will stand up for UK and tell it like it is. His campaign wasn’t about hating Europe, it was about taking back as much control of our destiny as we could.

Johnson was a very successful Mayor of London and he was so because he does have a razor sharp wit and isn’t afraid to take the piss out of anyone, not least himself. He is a very clever man – in the old fashioned educated sense – and he has had the political nous to surround himself with good people who will do his donkey work well, while he sticks his floppy hair above the parapet. He’s also funny and for that, the British public will forgive him a lot. I seriously have no idea how this one is going too play out.

It’s some of the changes further down the political food-chain that I think are more interesting – and more troubling. Chris Grayling the new transport secretary, Johnson and Phillip Hammond are against the further expansion of Heathrow but rather more pro-HS2. Now that the latter will skirt the current Prime Minister’s constituency rather than charge through it (May is MP for Maidenhead, Cameron’s is in Oxfordshire), that looks rather more likely to go-ahead.

Does the dismantling of the Department for Energy and Climate Change signal a climb-down on green issues and energy efficiency policy on the Government’s part? Or does the fact that Greg Clark is now Secretary for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy mean that the Government has realised that the three are intrinsically linked and that a sustainable energy policy is vital for the future of both business and industry? In any case, Clark is a nice man, a good egg and a spot-on constituency MP. He’s mine.

Anyway, back to Boris. It’s always possible that May had simply written FO next to his name on the hit list and a well-meaning civil servant just assumed it meant Foreign Office…

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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