Prime Minister Theresa May has reappointed most of her ministers but appointed a Brexit campaigner and party rival in a bid to try and unite her Conservatives after a disastrous election result.
The 60-year-old leader said she had tapped experience across the “whole of the Conservative Party” when she appointed Michael Gove, a long-serving cabinet minister who had clashed with May when she was home secretary, as Agriculture Minister.
It was a surprise move – Gove was sacked as justice minister by May last year after his bid to become party leader forced now-foreign minister Boris Johnson from the race, amid accusations of treachery and political backstabbing.
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But after gambling away a majority in parliament in an election she did not need to call, May needs to unite a disillusioned party around her to not only support her in the Brexit talks but also to strike a deal with a small Northern Irish party that will enable her to stay in power.
“What I’m doing now is actually getting on with the immediate job. And I think that’s what’s important, I think that’s what the public would expect. They want to see government providing that certainty and stability,” she said.
Several newspapers said Johnson was being urged by supporters to launch a leadership challenge, but he dismissed the reports as “tripe”.
“Folks we need to calm down and get behind the prime minister,” Johnson said, according to a screenshot of a WhatsApp group text message to Conservative lawmakers posted by an ITV news reporter on Twitter.
“I am going to be backing her, and absolutely everybody I’m talking to is going to be backing her too,” Johnson later told Sky News.
May formed her cabinet despite failing to win a majority in Thursday’s parliamentary election, when her Conservatives won 318 House of Commons seats. Labour, the main opposition party, won 262.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he could still be prime minister, although his party has no obvious way to build a majority coalition.
He said a new election might be necessary later this year or early in 2018.