7 significant cabinet reshuffles

Theresa May's post-election reshuffle was insignificant, but could a bigger one be right around the corner? Take a look at seven significant reshuffles in British political history.

1. Night of the Long Knives

The name of this historically significant event in British politics comes from a 1930s German purge when the Nazis were in power. The British version occurred in 1962 when Harold MacMillan ended the ministerial careers of seven cabinet ministers in one fowl swoop – including his chancellor. The sackings did not pay off as MacMillan eventually resigned and his successor Alec Douglas-Home led the party to defeat in the 1964 general election.

A full analysis from Politics.co.uk can be read here.

2. Cameron’s 2014 reshuffle

With less than a year to go before the 2015 general election, David Cameron reshuffled his top team. The FT reported that the political manoeuvre was dubbed the removal of the “male, pale and stale” for the significant number of old, white men that were removed from government. Ministers that left their government posts included Dominic Grieve, David Jones and Owen Patterson.

3. Blair’s 2006 reshuffle

One year after winning an historic third term in power, Tony Blair underwent a significant cabinet reshuffle. According to the BBC, numerous cabinet members switched roles, with Margaret Beckett becoming foreign secretary and Alan Johnson becoming education secretary. The site reported that a total of six ministers were removed from their ministerial positions including Alun Michael and Jane Kennedy.

4. Cameron’s 2015 majority reshuffle

After winning a surprise majority, the decimation of the Liberal Democrats meant that David Cameron had plenty of vacant seats in his cabinet. The BBC reported that Michael Gove became chief whip, Sajid Javid replaced outgoing Vince Cable as business secretary, Amber Rudd took over Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, replacing another Lib Dem, Ed Davey, and David Mundell, Scotland’s only Tory MP - at the time – took over from the Lib Dems’ Alistair Carmichael as Secretary of State for Scotland.

5. Thatcher’s 1981 reshuffle

In 1981, Margaret Thatcher shuffled her cabinet, not once but twice. The second one was perhaps more significant. According to the Margaret Thatcher Foundation, it can be characterised as a “purge of the wets” as Mark Carlisle, Ian Gilmour and Lord Soames were all booted from the government.

6. Jeremy Corbyn’s 2016 cabinet reshuffle

In the week after the EU referendum, Jeremy Corbyn’s authority was questioned when a large swathe of shadow cabinet ministers left his team. The reshuffle was a mix of sackings and resignations, with Hilary Benn who served as shadow foreign secretary resigning from his post, according to the Guardian. The paper reported that twenty shadow ministers either resigned or were sacked. Soon after this Owen Smith challenged Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership of the party, but lost out.

7. Sturgeon’s 2014 reshuffle

Less than two months after the SNP’s failed attempt to take Scotland out of the UK, Nicola Sturgeon became the party’s leader, and soon reshuffled her cabinet. The reshuffle was significant for the reason that it was a half and half split between women and men, according to the BBC.

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