May’s ‘refresh’ reshuffle flattened by resignation and refusal
By John Goodrich
British Prime Minister Theresa May's attempts for a fresh start in 2018 with a top team reshuffle were undermined on Monday by one minister’s resignation and another’s refusal to change jobs.
Education Secretary Justine Greening became the fourth minister to leave the Cabinet since November, after refusing a request to move to the welfare and pensions ministry.
Meanwhile Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt – who had been tipped to become First Secretary of State, a de facto deputy to May – reportedly persuaded the prime minister to abandon plans to move him to the business department.
Justine Greening refused to move posts and resigned as education secretary. /VCG Photo

Justine Greening refused to move posts and resigned as education secretary. /VCG Photo

The other leading players in the government - Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Brexit Secretary David Davis, Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Chancellor Philip Hammond - kept their jobs.
The prime minister carried out what her office called a "refresh" of the government after sacking her deputy Damian Green last month in a row over pornography. His departure followed those of the defense and aid secretaries in unrelated scandals the previous month.

Reassert authority

May hoped the shakeup would help her reassert authority ahead of crunch Brexit negotiations this year, and following a torrid 2017 in which she lost her parliamentary majority in a snap election last summer.
An interim deal on Brexit in December appeared to give her new impetus, and the much-anticipated reshuffle was arranged.
CGTN Photo

CGTN Photo

But the day began in a farcical fashion when her Conservative party announced a new chairman on Twitter, only to delete the tweet and later name another lawmaker for the post.
"No wonder Theresa May's struggling to negotiate Brexit -- she can't even organise a reshuffle," opposition Labour MP Stephen Kinnock swiftly tweeted.
Following Hunt's reported refusal to move and Greening's resignation later on Monday, Britain's newspapers were quick to lambast May's reboot.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt reportedly refused to move jobs. /VCG Photo‍

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt reportedly refused to move jobs. /VCG Photo‍

The Times' front page called the reshuffle "shambolic" while The Daily Telegraph declared it the "night of the blunt stiletto." 
Some Conservative lawmakers appeared to agree, with Tory grandee Nicholas Soames tweeting: "I don't mean to be rude or to be seen to be disloyal but there needs to be a major improvement to the reshuffle tomorrow."

Greening’s Brexit challenge

Greening's resignation is likely to be viewed as a challenge to the prime minister's already fragile authority. She was offered the welfare ministry "but declined to take it," a Downing Street source told AFP.
The former minister said in a tweet that educational issues like social mobility matter "more than my ministerial career", and vowed to continue to work for young people as a member of parliament.
Twitter Screenshot

Twitter Screenshot

Greening, a rare voice in the top ranks of government from northern England, holder of a London constituency and strong supporter of the UK remaining in the EU, is expected to speak out strongly from the backbenches on the Brexit debate.
May's room for maneuver is limited by heading a minority government and the need to maintain a delicate Cabinet balance of euroskeptic and pro-European ministers as major Brexit decisions loom.
Negotiations on a transition deal begin this month, while the toughest talks, on Britain's future relationship with the EU including trade, are set to start in March.
Minor reshuffle
Former justice secretary David Lidington took over the policy coordination role previously held by Green but did not inherit the title of May's deputy.
Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire, who failed to secure a deal to restore the power-sharing government in Belfast after it collapsed a year ago, stepped down for health reasons and has been replaced by culture minister Karen Bradley. Matthew Hancock, an acolyte of former chancellor George Osborne, continued his ascent by replacing Bradley.
The Conservative party chairman, Patrick McLoughlin, lost his job after the disastrous snap election. It was one of several low points last year for the prime minister, who took office in July 2016 after the referendum on leaving the EU and began her tenure strongly with a bold Cabinet reshuffle.
May is expected to announce a reshuffle of her lower government ranks on Tuesday.
(With inputs from agencies)