This week, Boris Johnson succeeded Theresa May as the leader of Britain’s Conservative Party, and thus became the country’s new Prime Minister. Meet some of the strong, conservative women who have joined his Cabinet.
Johnson appointed the MP for Witham as the new Home Secretary, making her Britain’s first ethnic minority female to hold the office. Home Secretary is one of the four “Great Offices of State.” Patel is, therefore, one of the most important people in Cabinet.
As Home Secretary, she is responsible for immigration, policing, and other internal affairs of the country. She said that in her role, she will fight “the scourge of crime”. Pundits regard her as a hardliner within the Conservative party. A staunch Eurosceptic, she was briefly involved with the anti-EU Referendum Party in her youth and was a key figure in the successful Vote Leave campaign during the EU referendum.
As recently as 2011, she publicly advocated for the reintroduction of the death penalty, arguing that it creates a strong deterrent for anyone who is thinking of committing violent crimes. Andrew Pierce of the Daily Mail described her as part of the “hang and flog em brigade” of the Conservatives. She held a post previously in Theresa May’s Cabinet as International Development Secretary but resigned after it was revealed that she had held covert meetings with the Israeli government whilst on holiday in the country. Patel is currently married to her husband of 15 years, with one son, Freddie.
Elizabeth Truss, more commonly known as Liz, is a darling of the libertarian wing of the party and is the new International Trade Secretary. Tipped as a prospective Chancellor of the Exchequer in Boris’s team, Truss has been a vocal defender of the free market. Sajid Javid, the previous Home Secretary, pipped her to the position of Chancellor, so her skills will instead be put to good use championing the cause of Britain’s businesses, a key role in post-Brexit Britain. She has strongly fought back against “nanny-state” regulations; she voted against the introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes, one of only two Conservative MPs to do so.
Truss has had Cabinet experience. In 2016, she became the first-ever female Lord Chancellor in the 1000 year history of the role. She also previously held the positions of Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Environment Secretary. She supported Remain in the 2016 EU referendum, but has since changed her tack, and is a “born-again Brexiteer”. Truss married her husband Hugh in 2001 and has two children with him.
Andrea Leadsom takes up the position of Business Secretary. She is also responsible for Energy and Industrial policy in this role. Leadsom ran for the leadership of the Conservative Party twice. In 2016, she faced Theresa May as one of the final two candidates after the resignation of David Cameron. She dropped out after she insinuated in an interview that being a mother made her qualified for office. May is childless, thus the media perceived the comments as an attack on her opponent. She ran again in the recent leadership election, but she did not gain enough votes in the early stages.
Leadsom, like Patel, campaigned for Leave in the EU referendum. Along with Johnson and the then Labour MP Gisela Stuart, she participated in the BBC’s “Great Debate” on Brexit. She succeeded Truss as Environment Secretary in 2016 and served as Leader of the House of Commons for two years. She resigned her post in protest over May’s inability to secure a Brexit deal in May of this year.
Leadsom describes herself as a “committed Christian”:
I think my values and everything I do is driven by that. It’s very important to me. I actually study the Bible in Parliament with a group of colleagues and I do go to church but I am not a regular. There’s the cross party Christians in parliament group and there are various Bible studies groups, which I find incredibly helpful. I do pray a lot – all the time – mostly for support and doing the right thing.
There are some ministers who attend Cabinet who are not heads of any government department but hold junior ministerial positions that are important enough to warrant a spot around the table. Esther McVey is one such junior minister.
She succeeds Kit Malthouse as Minister for Housing, under the purview of Robert Jenrick, the new Secretary for Communities and Local Government. Twice elected to Parliament for two different constituencies, McVey was Work and Pensions Secretary until 2018. Like many others since the referendum, she resigned over the government’s position on Brexit.
McVey stood in the last leadership election. As part of her campaign, she launched “Blue Collar Conservatives”, a new pressure group within the Conservatives. The media and leftist politicians often target her for her strongly-held beliefs; since she comes from a humble background, they expect her to be on their side. It infuriates them that she defends benefit sanctions, and sympathizes with parents who do not want their young children taught about same-sex relationships. The current Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, made comments in 2014 about McVey being “lynched” for her actions.
Her fiancé is fellow Conservative MP Philip Davies. BBC Politics Live reported their engagement in May of this year after a “long time on-and-off romantic interest“.