Cabinet reshuffle in chaos after Tories announce wrong person as party chairman

Theresa May’s reshuffle descends into chaos as Chris Grayling move announced and then deleted

The announcement was revealed on the Tory Twitter feed, but swiftly deleted

Theresa May’s Cabinet reshuffle descended into chaos this morning, as a reported move for Tory Transport Secretary Chris Grayling was announced, then deleted.

The Conservatives’ official Twitter account put out that Chris Grayling, the controversial Transport Secretary, would take on the role – a tweet immediately shared by some Tory MPs.

But the tweet was quickly deleted and – 15 minutes later – Brandon Lewis, the Immigration Minister, arrived in No 10, where he was later confirmed as party chairman.

The embarrassment meant the reshuffle, always a perilous moment for any prime minister, got off to the worst possible start for Mrs May.

The reason for the mistake was unclear, but there was speculation that party headquarters had resisted the appointment of Mr Grayling, a key Theresa May ally.

In a further gaffe, No 10 mis-spelt the word “portfolio” when announcing Mr Lewis’ full job description, which includes being Minister without Portfolio – leaving out the “t”. The tweet had to be deleted, then reposted.

Mr Lewis will be charged with rebuilding the Tory party in the country, where membership is believed to have plunged to just 70,000.

The lack of Tory footsoldiers is widely seen as one of the reasons for the party’s election humiliation last year, allowing it to be outgunned by Labour in key marginal seats.

A recent report by academics at Queen Mary University suggested at least 44 per cent of Tory members are over 65 and 71 per cent are male.

And the grassroots website Conservative Home reported that membership had fallen by a quarter since 2016, partly because of a walkout by Tories who opposed Brexit.

Patrick McLoughlin performed what has been dubbed the “walk of shame” out of Downing St after leaving his job as party chairman – and the Cabinet.

He told reporters he had enjoyed being in the Cabinet “immensely”. It is thought he offered to resign after last year’s general election, but that the Prime Minister asked him to stay on for a spell.

Earlier, Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire announced he had quit the Cabinet because, an aide said, he was facing major surgery within the next couple of weeks.

Despite pressure last year to sack both either Chancellor Philip Hammond or Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary – or both – all the most senior ministers are now expected to remain in their posts.

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