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Williamson removed as education secretary as PM reshuffles his cabinet ministers

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Gavin Williamson has been removed as education secretary and Robert Buckland has gone as justice secretary as the prime minister carries out a reshuffle of his cabinet ministers.

Number 10 has yet to confirm the moves officially. But, in a Twitter post, Mr Williamson said: “It has been a privilege to serve as education secretary since 2019.

“Despite the challenges of the global pandemic, I’m particularly proud of the transformational reforms I’ve led in post-16 education: in further education colleges, our skills agenda, apprenticeships and more.”

He added he would “look forward to continue to support the prime minister and the government”.

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Meanwhile, Mr Buckland also posted on Twitter to say he was looking to “the next adventure” and that he was “deeply proud of everything I have achieved” after serving in government for the past seven years.

Mr Williamson has faced regular criticism of his handling of the education brief during the COVID-19 crisis, including over the pandemic-enforced shutting of schools and a fiasco over the awarding of A-level and GCSE grades.

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Last week, Mr Williamson was widely mocked after he admitted to confusing England footballer Marcus Rashford with rugby star Maro Itoje.

As a former Tory chief whip, Mr Williamson was widely credited with securing the vast support for Mr Johnson among Conservative MPs during the party’s 2019 leadership contest.

He was previously campaign manager for Theresa May’s successful leadership campaign and – with a reputation as one of Westminster’s most formidable organisers – it has been suggested he could prove to be a threat to Mr Johnson on the back benches.

It has been speculated that Mr Buckland’s removal as justice secretary, a role he had held since 2019, could create a vacancy for Dominic Raab to move into should he be sacked as foreign secretary.

The prime minister is expected to complete the reshuffle of his cabinet today, with changes to lower ministerial ranks to be finalised on Thursday.

Confirmation that Mr Johnson would hold a widely-anticipated reshuffle of his ministers came during Wednesday’s session of Prime Minister’s Questions.

A Number 10 source said Mr Johnson would look to “put in place a strong and united team” to help the country recover from the COVID pandemic.

FILE IMAGE - Britain's Secretary of State of Justice Robert Buckland arrives at Downing Street in London, Britain, February 25, 2020.
Image: Robert Buckland had served as justice secretary since 2019

They also said the prime minister was looking for his government to “redouble our efforts to deliver on the people’s priorities” and Mr Johnson would appoint ministers “with a focus on uniting and levelling up the whole country”.

At a briefing for Westminster journalists, the prime minister’s official spokesman said Mr Johnson had not consulted his wife Carrie on the reshuffle.

Earlier in the day, Mr Johnson’s former chief adviser Dominic Cummings had branded the imminent moving of ministers as the “Carrie Reshuffle”.