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New Conservative chairman Brandon Lewis welcomes influx of talent

PUBLISHED: 11:32 09 January 2018 | UPDATED: 11:32 09 January 2018

CCHQ vice chair for local government Marcus Jones, CCHQ vice chair for communities Rehman Chishti, Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis, prime minister Theresa May and Conservative deputy chairman James Cleverly after the reshuffle

CCHQ vice chair for local government Marcus Jones, CCHQ vice chair for communities Rehman Chishti, Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis, prime minister Theresa May and Conservative deputy chairman James Cleverly after the reshuffle

PA Wire/PA Images

New Conservative chairman and Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis has hailed an influx of “new talent” after the prime minister’s reshuffle.

And Mr Lewis promised there would be a “really good breath of fresh air coming in” as changes were made in the lower ministerial ranks.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “What we have seen yesterday is a real influx of new talent, not just my position itself, obviously.”

The chairman sidestepped questions over how many members the party now has following years of dwindling numbers.

“I’m very focused on growing our party,” he said.

Pressed on whether the party is in a mess, Mr Lewis replied “not quite” but admitted there was a “job of work” to be done.

Theresa May was thwarted in a planned bid to reshape her top team as education secretary Justine Greening quit rather than switch to the work and pensions portfolio, and health secretary Jeremy Hunt was reported to have dug in after turning down the role of business secretary.

Mrs May faced calls to be more courageous in bringing about change and diversity to refresh the look of the government.

After a day of little movement in the top ranks, and many social media mistakes, Tory grandee Sir Nicholas Soames tweeted: “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.”

Former Tory chairman Grant Shapps, who was accused of trying to oust Mrs May after last June’s disastrous election for the Conservatives, told BBC Newsnight: “Clearly, to be blunt, it wasn’t a brilliantly executed performance with the reshuffle today.”

Ms Greening, who could now become a backbench Brexit thorn in the prime minister’s side, was succeeded as education secretary by Damian Hinds.

The job Ms Greening turned down, work and pensions secretary, was given instead to Esther McVey, who triggered controversy when she was a junior minister in the department under David Cameron.

The big winner of the shake-up was former justice secretary David Lidington, who replaced Damian Green as minister for the cabinet office, but was not awarded the title of first secretary of state enjoyed by his predecessor.

However, Mr Lidington will fill in for Mrs May at prime minister’s questions and take on some of the responsibilities for chairing influential cabinet committees, including some relating to Brexit.

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