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New Defra Secretary of State – who are the runners and riders?

Now Boris Johnson has won a huge majority, thoughts are turning to what his new Government will look like. Abi Kay looks at the runners and riders for Defra Secretary.

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New Defra Secretary of State – who are the runners and riders?

After gaining so many new seats in yesterday’s election, Mr Johnson has a free hand to do almost anything.

 

Reports have already suggested he is planning to fold the Department for International Development into the Foreign Office, and it is possible he could look to do something similar with Defra and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

 

But, there is no harm in speculating about who could be leading Defra, either in the short-term or as part of a beefed up department in the new year, if Theresa Villiers does not hold on to the post.

 

Here are Farmers Guardian’s possible runners and riders.


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James Cleverly

James Cleverly

The co-chairman of the Conservative Party was a prominent voice during the election campaign, and backed Boris Johnson when he was running for leader after pulling out of the race himself.

 

He’s a long-time leaver – which may be important to a Prime Minister who has just won a ‘Brexit election’ – and he’s got ministerial experience, with a brief spell as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Exiting the EU in 2019.

Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak

Brexiteer Rishi Sunak’s profile has risen considerably in recent weeks, after he stepped in to represent the Conservatives in Boris Johnson’s place during the BBC’s seven-way leaders’ debate.

 

He cut his ministerial teeth with a junior post at the Department for Communities and Local Government, but now many expect him to receive a promotion.

 

He was also an early backer of the PM’s Tory leadership campaign, and representing the Richmond (Yorks) seat, has considerable experience of rural issues.

George Eustice

George Eustice

Outspoken Brexiteer George Eustice is likely to be seen as a safe pair of hands at Defra during a time of unprecedented change.

 

He’s got an almost unparalleled command of the brief, having been the longest serving Farming Minister ever, and was re-appointed by Mr Johnson after his resignation under Theresa May.

 

He did, however, back Mr Johnson’s rival, Michael Gove, during the leadership campaign.

Nigel Adams

Nigel Adams

The Selby and Ainsty MP has a close relationship with Mr Johnson, and was heavily involved in his first ill-fated campaign to become Conservative leader.

 

A long-term Brexit supporter, he has had two junior ministerial posts at the Wales Office and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

 

He also served as a Defra whip in 2018.

Tracey Crouch

Tracey Crouch

As a vocal anti-fox hunting, anti-badger cull MP, Tracey Crouch could be the green, animal welfare-friendly candidate Mr Johnson was rumoured to be keen to appoint in Zac Goldsmith, who lost his seat.

 

She has three years of ministerial experience under her belt, covering portfolios including tourism and loneliness.

 

She did, however, back Matt Hancock in the leadership campaign.

Rebecca Pow

Rebecca Pow

Rebecca Pow has plenty of experience of rural issues, having previously worked for the NFU and as a broadcaster focused on the environment, farming and food.

 

Since becoming an MP, she has campaigned vociferously on issues such as soil health, and has been in ministerial posts since May 2019, first at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and later at Defra.

 

She refused to say who she backed to become Conservative leader, but campaigned for remain during the referendum.

Alister Jack

Alister Jack

One of the few remaining Scottish Conservative MPs, appointing Mr Jack to a cabinet position could be a strategic move for Mr Johnson, who will no doubt want to reverse some of the gains made by the SNP at the next election.

 

Mr Jack has strong farming links and campaigned on the promise to stand up for rural communities.

 

He also already has cabinet experience, having served as Secretary of State for Scotland since July 2019, and is a staunch Brexiteer.

Jo Churchill

Jo Churchill

Representing Bury St Edmunds, Jo Churchill has plenty of knowledge of rural and farming issues.

 

She also has a few months’ ministerial experience under her belt, having been appointed to a junior post at the Department for Health and Social Care in July 2019.

 

Ms Churchill did not declare who she was supporting in the leadership campaign, preferring to ‘stay neutral’, but campaigned to remain in the EU referendum.

Kemi Badenoch

Kemi Badenoch

Saffron Walden MP Kemi Badenoch is often touted as a rising star in the party.

 

She’s currently a junior Minister at the Department for Education, but has been tipped for promotion.

 

A Brexiteer, Ms Badenoch backed Boris Johnson’s rival, Michael Gove, in the leadership election.

Steve Baker

Steve Baker

A former chairman of the European Research Group, a hardcore Tory Brexit caucus, Mr Baker could be worth bringing into the fold to help sell any future agreement with the EU to potential doubters.

 

He also has ministerial experience, having previously held a post at the Department for Exiting the EU, and backed the PM in the leadership campaign after suggesting he might put himself forward.

 

He did, however, reportedly turn down a junior job offered by Mr Johnson in the July 2019 reshuffle.

Suella Braverman

Suella Braverman

Former Brexit Minister Suella Braverman may be in with a chance of returning to Government.

 

She was a prominent leave supporter, resigning after Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement was published, and backed Boris Johnson in the leadership campaign.

Tips for junior Ministers

  • Harriet Baldwin
  • Matt Warman
  • Simon Hart
  • Julian Sturdy
  • Helen Whately
  • Caroline Johnson
  • Bim Afolami
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