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May fires Gove as new British cabinet takes shape

July 14, 2016

Prime Minister May has sacked Justice Minister Michael Gove while several other ministers have resigned. May's cabinet is set to contain record numbers of women, plus a mix of "remain" and "leave" campaigners.

Großbritannien London Minister Michael Gove
Image: Getty Images/C. Furlong

Great Britain's new Prime Minister Theresa May continued an unusually extensive cabinet reshuffle on Thursday, including getting rid of Justice Minister Michael Gove.

Gove was a leading campaigner for the Brexit alongside newly appointed Foreign Minister Boris Johnson. Following the vote, Gove scuppered any prime ministerial ambitions Johnson might have held by announcing his own candidacy and declaring Johnson unfit for the top job. In the ensuing leadership contest, however, Gove could not even secure second place and the chance to challenge May, losing out to long-shot candidate Andrea Leadsom.

Many Conservative MPs saw Gove in the back-stabbing role of Brutus - Johnson alluded to Shakespeare's Julius Caesar play several times when announcing he wouldn't run for the party leadership - and so supported Leadsom or May instead.

On Twitter, Gove wished the "best of luck to the new government."

The new prime minister also fired Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, a "remain" supporter who had backed Gove's leadership campaign. Another Gove supporter and fellow "leave" campaigner John Whittingdale was also sacked from his post as culture secretary on Thursday.

May's cabinet cleanout

Despite reportedly being offered a position on May's new cabinet, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers turned down the new post and resigned. During the EU referendum, Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU.

Another prominent cabinet member Stephen Crabb resigned from his post as well on Thursday, saying the decision was "in the best interests of my family." The announcement came just days after media reports seemingly unveiling text messages between Crabb, who is married, and another woman.

Health Minister Jeremy Hunt and Defense Minister Michael Fallon, both remain campaigners, retained their positions.

Women in top positions

The winners in May's new cabinet appear to be Brexit supporters and women. Eight female ministers have been appointed to posts so far, including Elizabeth Truss who became justice minister, replacing Gove.

Another top position was filled by Amber Rudd who will now take over May's old as interior minister.

Two new positions designed to help navigate the UK's exit from the EU went to right-wing euroskeptics David Davis and Liam Fox. Davis is responsible for negotiating the terms of the UK's EU exit, Fox is responsible for forging international trade deals elsewhere.

On Wednesday, May placed Philip Hammond at the economic helm as the new finance minister. Hammond therefore claims what's broadly perceived as the second-most powerful job in British politics, after May's. He will move in next door to the PM, at 11 Downing Street.

However, it was Boris Johnson's appointment as foreign minister that dominated international headlines, drawing conflicting reactions around the world, with US state department spokesman Mark Toner saying the US would always work with the UK while stifling a laugh upon finding out about Johnson's appointment.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, however, had harsh words and called the former London mayor's behavior during and after the referendum campaign as "irresponsible".

rs/msh (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)