Politics

How chaotic is our government? Here's how many senior cabinet ministers we've had since the last election

It’s not just prime ministers. We've had five education secretaries and four chancellors since July

Rishi Sunak holds his first cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street. Image: Simon Walker / No 10 Downing Street

How chaotic is our government you ask? Here’s one answer: almost half of all senior cabinet posts have had as many people fill the role since the 2019 election as they had in the previous nine years.

With three prime ministers in 50 days, the turmoil at the very top of government has stopped civil servants from doing their jobs and continued this week as Rishi Sunak fired and rehired a cabinet.

Why does it matter? Well it’s taking place during a cost of living crisis, with inflation topping 10 per cent and the Trussell Trust food bank network preparing to hand out 1.3 million emergency food parcels this winter.

The Big Issue looked at the turnover of full cabinet roles with a departmental portfolio since the 2019 general election and compared them to the previous nine years, back to when the Conservatives entered Downing Street in 2010. Strap in.

Posts with at least as many holders since the 2019 election as between 2010 and 2019

  • Chancellor: 5 since 2019, 2 from 2010-19
  • Home secretary: 4 since 2019, 4 from 2010-19
  • Housing secretary: 4 since 2019, from 2010-19
  • Health secretary: 4 since 2019, 3 from 2010-19
  • Business secretary: 5 since 2019, 4 from 2010-19
  • Education secretary: 6 since 2019, 4 from 2010-19
  • Northern Ireland: 4 since 2019, 4 from 2010-19
  • Trade: Role created in 2016. 3 since 2019 and 1 before

Some offices are more turbulent than others. Since 2010 the country has had 11 culture secretaries, nine education and justice secretaries and eight environment, housing and work and pensions secretaries.

Sunak’s new cabinet has seen outgoings including justice secretary Brandon Lewis, business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg, work and pensions secretary Chloe Smith, Wales secretary Robert Buckland and housing secretary Simon Clarke.

Old faces are now back. Suella Braverman returns as home secretary less than a week after being sacked over security concerns, while Dominic Raab is back as justice secretary.

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Gillian Keegan, who replaces Kit Malthouse as education secretary, is the fifth person in the post since July. That’s July this year.

Jeremy Hunt has survived as chancellor but he is the fourth since July, when the Bank of England warned inflation would break 11 per cent by the end of the year.

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So it’s easy to see why civil servants are confused.

“The lack of continuity and chaos is certainly disrupting the running of the government”, Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union for civil servants, told The Big Issue.

“When incompetent politicians flail around changing policies on the hoof, failing to deliver, it’s our members who take the flak on the frontline.”

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