British PM May to reshuffle cabinet, appoint new ministers

Damian Hinds the new education secretary

Such mishaps illustrate the formidable challenge facing the new chairman Brandon Lewis, his well-regarded deputy James Cleverly, a former soldier, and a team of new vice-chairs, including Harrogate MP Andrew Jones, as they begin to rebuild the party's shattered support base.

Transport Minister Chris Grayling had been strongly linked with the job before the appointment.

Theresa May's first major reshuffle since taking office in 2016 was also marked by the unexpected departure of Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire, who quit the government on grounds of ill-health weeks ahead of major surgery for a small lesion to his right lung.

After a hard start when her party had to delete a tweet naming the wrong person as its new chairman, May went on to promote more women, black and younger lawmakers to challenge critics who call the Conservatives "male, pale and stale". But with only sideways ministerial moves on Monday (Tuesday NZT), the lack of any serious sackings suggests she still lacks authority.

As hacks got to grips with the news that Grayling's tenure as party chairman had been terminated around 27 seconds after it was announced, tributes for the politician known as "Gray Thing" poured in on social media.

His replacement was announced on Twitter, only for the tweet to be nearly immediately deleted.

However, while Downing Street said Mr Lidington would stand in for the Prime Minister at PMQs, he has not been given the formal title of First Secretary of State, a role which effectively gave Mr Green the role of deputy Prime Minister.

Sir Patrick McLoughlin, a minister as far back as the Thatcher government, could be replaced having overseen the general election campaign that ended with the Tories losing their majority.

He was also blamed for the disastrous party conference, where magnetic letters fell off during May's speech which was being televised live.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has kept his portfolio despite a series of high-profile gaffes. A lapse in vetting allowed a known prankster to attend the event and interrupt her speech. Damian Green was the third minister to leave the cabinet in the space of a few weeks, after the defence secretary and worldwide development minister both quit - all three following separate scandals.

Green denies looking up porn but eventually resigned as the revelation came at the same time a Tory activist Kate Maltby accused him of behaving inappropriately toward her, a charge he also denied.

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