100 good reasons to be a republican

Put not your trust in Princes - Psalm 146.

1) Certainly that people needs be mad or strangely infatuated that build the chief hope of their common happiness or safety on a single person; who, if he happen to be good, can do no more than another man; if he happen to be bad, hath in his hands to do more evil without check than millions of other men. 

John Milton, 1660

 

2) Class! Yes, it is still here. Terrific staying power, and against the historical odds. What is it with that old, old crap? The class system just doesn't know when to call it a day. 

Martin AmisLondon Fields, 1989

 

3) To inherit a government is to inherit the people. 

Tom Paine, 1791

 

4) The insuperable objection to monarchy is that the king or queen is elevated, and respect is accorded, for no reason other than birth . . . No one who believes either in the claims of merit or in the pursuit of equality can defend the system. 

Mervyn Jones, 1977

 

5) It has been said, not truly, but with a possible approximation to truth, that in 1802 every hereditary monarch was insane. 

Walter Bagehot, 1867

 

6) [Monarchy] is as absurd as an hereditary mathematician. 

Tom Paine, 1791

 

7) It is in principle wrong and absurd that people should wield power on the basis of birth, not merit or election . . . There are no conceivable grounds for maintaining this system. 

Tony Blair, 1996

 

8) You should study the peerage, Gerald . . . It is the best thing in fiction the English have ever done. 

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

 

9) The old elites, establishments that have run our professions and our country for too long. Who have kept women and black and Asian talent out of our top jobs and senior parts of government and the services. Who keep our bright inner-city kids from our best universities. And who still think the House of Lords should be run by hereditary peers in the interests of the Tory party. 

Tony Blair, 1999 Labour Party conference

 

10) She holds a unique place in the heart of the nation and many people across the world. 

Tony Blair at a service for the Queen Mother, 13 July 2000

 

11) This romancing about the royal family is, I fear, only a minor symptom of the softening of the brain of socialists enervated by affluence, social prestige and political power.

Beatrice Webb on the 1929 Labour government

 

12) One of the most depressing experiences of my life was to hear the propagandised uniformity of the responses from people who were ordinarily cheerful, decent, democratic and rather subversive in some of their manners . . . "I wouldn't have her job." Well, I wanted to say, no one is going to ask you. And if they did, you could not say yes, because you were not born in the right place. 

Christopher Hitchens, 1994

 

13) I wish men to be free
As much from mobs as kings -
From you as me.

Lord Byron (1788-1824)

 

14) An islander from Tuvalu or Kiribati coming to Britain, especially if he was a Polynesian anthropologist, would think: What gives here? What is the extraordinary credulity and deference of these people? What will they not believe? 

Christopher Hitchens, 1994

 

15) The metaphor of the king as the shepherd of his people goes back to ancient Egypt. Perhaps the use of this particular convention is due to the fact that, being stupid, affectionate, gregarious and easily stampeded, the societies formed by sheep are most like human ones. 

Northrop Frye, Canadian literary critic, 1957

 

16) When it is said that our royal family is the envy of foreigners, I have always noticed that what foreigners particularly like is that it is ours and not theirs.

David Hare, 1994

 

17) Of course they should keep it - for our entertainment.

Editorial in the New York Times, 1996

 

18) Strip your Louis XIV of his king-gear, and there is nothing left but a poor forked radish with a head fantastically carved. 

Thomas Carlyle, 1840

 

19) It's a sign of the tragic immaturity of Britain as a nation that we should be obsessed in the year 2000 with a reactionary old woman who has never done anything except act as a parasite on the body politic. 

Piers Brendon, 2000

 

20) We must call up battles and banners and many ghosts and glories before we see whatever it is that we do see in the picture of a princess feeding a bear with a bun. 

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

 

21) If Britain has become a quaint spectacle, a licensed and pensioned relief from the modern world, a Ruritania for condescending delectation, the monarchy is the special article for the customers with Diners cards. 

Mervyn Jones, 1977

 

22) [Monarchy is like] something kept behind a curtain, about which there is a great deal of bustle and fuss . . . but when, by any accident, the curtain happens to be open, and the company see what it is, they burst into laughter.

Tom Paine, 1791

 

23) How is it that the British, the first modern industrial society, should have such a blatant anachronism at their centre? Isn't this a huge example of a failure of self-analysis? An inability to see ourselves as others see us?

Republican Alliance, 2000

 

24) People with an over-abundance of dignity and an oversupply of power have always in the end been targets for laughter.

Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977)

 

25) Made you a moron. 

Sex Pistols, 1977

 

26) I have often thought that the case against retaining the monarchy, which I usually construct in terms of the way it institutionalises deference, can be expressed much more simply: it rots the brain. 

Joan Smith, 2000

 

27) Crown: A headgear that makes the head superfluous.

Gabriel Laub, Polish author, b 1928

 

28) Once you touch the trappings of monarchy, like opening an Egyptian tomb, the inside is liable to crumble. 

Anthony Sampson, 1965

 

29) Of the various forms of government that have prevailed in the world, a hereditary monarchy seems to present the fairest scope for ridicule. 

Edward GibbonDecline and Fall of the Roman Empire, (1776-1788)

 

30) All monarchy rests upon deference, the instinct to cringe. Its opposite is the association of free autonomous citizens thinking for themselves. Monarchy, once despotism, has dwindled by way of crowd control into a sickly cult of the hereditary celeb. 

Edward Pearce, 2000

 

31) Royalty is but a feather in a man's cap; let children enjoy their rattle.

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658)

 

32) I think the royal family in great danger of reinventing themselves out of existence and boring the nation to death. 

Paul Flynn MP, 2000

 

33) Kings are not born; they are made by universal hallucination. 

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

 

34) A modern monarchy is possible - just as it is possible to buy alcohol-free lager or vegetarian sausages that look and smell vaguely like pork. But what's the point? 

Francis Wheen, 1998

 

35) A state can only survive as a true republic or a true monarchy.

Niccolo MachiavelliThe Prince, 1532

 

36) We assert that no nation can long endure half republic and half empire.

Democratic National Platform, 1900

 

37) The brood of that dutiful and pleasant gentlewoman Elizabeth II and her immediate connections is now distending the country with a brand new and brazen aristocracy; a nouveau ancien regime

New Statesman, 1986

 

38) Whereas Charles Stuart, King of England, is standeth convicted, attainted and condemned of high treason and other high crimes; and sentence upon Saturday last was pronounced against him by this court, to be put to death by the severing of his head from his body; of which sentence execution yet remaineth to be done. These are therefore to will and require you to see the said sentence executed, in the open street before Whitehall, upon the morrow . . . And these are to require all officers and soldiers, and others of the good people of this nation of England, to be assisting unto you in this service.

High Court of Justice, January 1649

 

39) Free not to have to puff some prince's wedding,
free to say up yours to Tony Blair,
to write an ode on Charles I's beheading
and regret the restoration of his heir . . . 
. . . 30th January, 1649,
though it's hard to use the date for self-promotion
the anniversary's gone with not a line
from toadies like Di-deifying Motion.

Tony Harrison's reaction to rumours that he would entertain an offer to become Poet Laureate in 1999 (Andrew Motion accepted)

 

40) Accountability of the executive is fundamental to any democracy. Where power is based not upon statute but upon the royal prerogative, it is this accountability which suffers. 

Jack Straw, 1994

 

41) A Parliament of knaves and sots,
Members by name you must not mention,
He keeps in pay, and buys their votes,
Here with a place, there with a pension:
When to give money he can't cologue 'em,
He doth with scorn porogue, porogue 'em.

New upstarts, pimps, bastards, whores,
That locust-like devour the land,
By shutting up the Exchequer doors
(When thither our money was trepanned)
Have rendered Charles his Restoration
But a small blessing for the nation.

John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, on Charles II, 1672

 

42) The royal refugee our breed restores
With foreign courtiers and with foreign whores,
And carefully repeopled us again
Throughout his lazy, long, lascivious reign.

Daniel Defoe on the restoration of Charles II, 1701

 

43) When Charles duly betrayed her best friend's granddaughter, continuing his affair with a fellow officer's wife before, during and after their marriage, the Queen Mother betrayed all her apparent principles by condoning her grandson's adultery and taking his side against the girl she had trapped into marrying him.

Anthony Holden, 1997

 

44) Our first-born is the greatest ass, the greatest liar, the greatest canaille and the greatest beast in the whole world, and we heartily wish he was out of it.

George II on his son Frederick, Prince of Wales

 

45) The family who were once icons of cleanliness in a dirty world have turned out to be the most single-minded bunch of shaggers in Christendom. 

Julie Burchill, 1999

 

46) An obstinate, self-indulgent, miserly martinet with an insatiable sexual appetite. 

Frederick, Prince of Wales on his father George II

 

47) I hope the best for Wills but, because that's the maddest family since the Munsters, we wouldn't be shocked if he turned out to be a cross-dresser who wanted to marry a corgi.

Julie Burchill, 1999

 

48) Here lies Fred,
Who was alive and is dead.
Had it been his father,
I had much rather.
Had it been his brother,
Still better than another.
Had it been his sister,
No one would have missed her.
Had it been the whole generation,
The better for the nation.
But since 'tis only Fred,
Who was alive, and is dead,
There's no more to be said.

Anonymous lines on the death of Frederick, Prince of Wales, 1751

 

49) An old, mad, blind, despised and dying king. 

Shelley on George III

 

50) Nor should Prince Charles succeed our present queen,
and spare us some toad's ode on coronation.
I'd like all suchlike odes there have ever been
Binned by a truly democratic nation.

Tony Harrison, "Laureate's Block", 1999

 

51) Princes, the dregs of their dull race, who flow
Through public scorn - mud from a muddy spring -
Rulers who neither see, nor feel, nor know,
But leechlike to their fainting country cling.

Shelley, 1819

 

52) It is this basic turn of mind - the country is theirs not in trust, but by right - which has lately given the monarchy its peculiarly sullen character. The House of Windsor has not bothered to be generous because, literally, it does not see why it needs to be. 

David Hare, 1994

 

53) And when the gorgeous coffin was laid low,
It seem'd the mockery of hell to fold
The rottenness of eighty years in gold. 

Byron on the funeral of George III

 

54) Those in the cheaper seats clap. The rest of you rattle your jewellery. 

John Lennon, 1963 Royal Variety Performance

 

55) Most gracious Queen, we thee implore
To go away and sin no more,
But if that effort prove too great,
To go away at any rate.

Anonymous epigram on Queen Caroline, 1820

 

56) I believe, in a case like yours, the man should sow his wild oats and have as many affairs as he can before settling down. 

Lord Mountbatten (1900-79) to Prince Charles

 

57) A libertine over head and ears in debt and disgrace, a despiser of domestic ties, the companion of demi-reps, a man who has just closed half a century without a single claim on the gratitude of his country or the respect of posterity. 

Leigh Hunt on the 50th birthday of the future King George IV, 1812

 

58) [Then] choose a sweet-charactered girl before she meets anyone else she might fall for. 

Lord Mountbatten to Prince Charles

 

59) There have been good and wise kings, but not many of them. Take them one with another, they are of an inferior character, and this I believe to be one of the worst of the kind. The littleness of his character prevents his displaying the dangerous faults that belong to great minds, but with vices and weaknesses of the lowest and most contemptible order it would be difficult to find a disposition more abundantly furnished.

Charles Cavendish Greville on George IV

 

60) Two-thirds of our government is unelected. The head of state enjoys power, wealth and status due solely to an accident of birth. Isn't it time to think again? 

South London Republican Forum, 2000

 

61) Though useless, kings are very expensive. 

Richard Carlile, 1820

 

62) Things get harder when the distance that lends enchantment cedes to the contempt bred of familiarity . . . The dominant impression the Windsors convey - by design rather than by accident - is of a clan of stolid zombies, barren of feeling and clenched of brain. 

Glen Newey, 1998

 

63) There never was an individual less regretted by his fellow creatures than this deceased King. What eye has wept for him? What heart has heaved one sob of unmercenary sorrow?

The Times on the death of George IV, 1830

 

64) Royalty is a neurosis.
Get well soon.

Adrian Mitchell to Charles Windsor

 

65) His late Majesty, though at times a jovial and, for a king, an honest man, was a weak, ignorant, commonplace sort of person. 

The Spectator on the death of William IV, 1837

 

66) No glass of ours was ever raised
To toast the Queen.

Seamus Heaney, who also had no intention of becoming Poet Laureate in 1999

 

67) These commanding premises to be let or sold, in consequence of the late inhabitant's declining business. 

Notice pinned to the railings of Buckingham Palace after Queen Victoria's withdrawal to Windsor, 1864

 

68) While the castle stands it is theirs, but when it burns down it is ours. 

Janet Daley, 1992, when the public was told to pay for the cost of the Windsor Castle fire

 

69) If you can show me a fair chance that a republic here will be free from the political corruption that hangs about monarchy, I say, for my part - and I believe the middle classes in general will say - let it come!

Sir Charles Dilke, 1871

 

70) This boy [the future Edward VIII] will be surrounded by sycophants and flatterers by the score and will be taught to believe himself as of a superior creation. A line will be drawn between him and the people whom he is to be called upon some day to reign over. 

Keir Hardie, 28 June 1894

 

71) She does not belong to us, she belongs to them. She is not Queen of England. She is Queen of the Establishment." 

Billy Bragg on Elizabeth II, 1994

 

72) I am going to see that well-known opera "The Merry Wives of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha". 

Kaiser Wilhelm II on hearing that his cousin, George V, had changed the family name to Windsor during the First World War

 

73) All the monarchical governments are military. War is their trade.

Tom Paine, 1791

 

74) He, too, is going the dictator way, and is pro-German, against Russia, and against too much slipshod democracy. I shouldn't be surprised if he aimed at making himself a mild dictator. 

Chips Channon on Edward VIII, 1936

 

75) It would be a tragic thing for the world if Hitler was overthrown. 

Edward VIII as Duke of Windsor to Liberty magazine, 1941

 

76) She would have made a good Queen. 

Adolf Hitler on the Duchess of Windsor, September 1939

 

77) The strongest poison ever known
Came from Caesar's laurel crown.

William Blake (1757-1827)

 

78) When Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich on 30 September 1938, he was driven straight from Heston aerodrome to Buckingham Palace - where, by royal invitation, he stood alongside the King and Queen on the balcony to acknowledge the cheers of the crowd. John Grigg once described this photo opportunity, which took place before parliament could debate or vote on the Munich agreement, as "the most unconstitutional act by a British sovereign in the present century". 

Francis Wheen on the Queen Mother, 2000

 

79) [The royal family] often drink a toast at the end of the dinner to Mrs Thatcher. She [the Queen Mother] adores Mrs Thatcher. 

Woodrow Wyatt Diaries, 1986

 

80) She [the Queen Mother] thinks that it is awful how the BBC and media misrepresent everything that Botha is trying to do. 

Woodrow Wyatt Diaries, 1986

 

81) When wilt thou save the people Oh God of Mercy? When? The people, Lord, the people! Not thrones and crowns, but men! 

Ebenezer Eliott, "The People's Anthem", (1781-1849)

 

82) The president this country needs would have no executive authority . . . Ideally, it should be somebody of whom we have never heard. I challenge you to tell me the name of the president of Germany. Perhaps more important, in the summer of 2000, we can be absolutely sure that his mother is not exalted above all others or that, when he dies, his widow will not be elevated to the status of saint and martyr. Nor will his son automatically succeed him in the presidency. If that seems a reasonable state of affairs, whether you know it or not, you are a republican.

Roy Hattersley, 2000

 

83) We have explored the temple of royalty, and have found that the idol we have bowed down to has eyes that see not, ears that hear not our prayers, and a heart like the nethermillstone.

Samuel Adams, speech in Philadelphia, 1776

 

84) The Queen's relationship to God changes as she moves over the Scottish border. She becomes less important.

Andrew DuncanThe Reality of Monarchy, 1970

 

85) The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The man's the gowd for a' that!

Robert Burns (1759-1796)

 

86) As children we learned how to do without the tooth fairy and Santa Claus. Now we're grown-ups, shouldn't we learn how to do without the monarchy?

Claire Rayner, 2000

 

87) Republics in which high birth gives no right to the government of the state are, in that respect, the most happy; for the people have less reason to envy an authority. 

MontesquieuCauses de la grandeur des Romains et de leur decadence

 

88) It's odd - being the 21st century, at a time of fundamental constitutional reform, to be saddled with a 19th-century monarchy. The waves of reform need to lap a bit further up the beach. 

Norman Baker MP, 2000

 

89) Our first concern as lovers of our country must be to enlighten it. Why are the nations of the world so patient under despotism? . . . Show them they are men, and they will act like men. 

Reverend Richard PriceOn the Love of Our Country, 1789

 

90) I was much an enemy to monarchy before I came to Europe. I am ten thousand times more so since I have seen what they are. There is scarcely an evil known in these countries which may not be traced to their king as its source, nor a good which is not derived from the small fibers of republicanism existing among them.

Thomas Jefferson in a letter to George Washington, 1788

 

91) Democracies are commonly more quiet and less subject to sedition than where there are stirps of nobles.

Francis BaconEssays, 1625

 

92) Real democracy will exist only when "every man is, in his own proper self a king" - when the ordinary has become extraordinary.

Tom Nairn, 1988

 

93) Put not your trust in 
Princes.

Psalm 146

 

94) I believe that it's Elizabeth the Last. 

Stephen Haseler, chairman of the Republican Society, 2000

 

95) It's curtains for you, Elizabeth my dear. 

Stone Roses, 1989

 

96) We know in our hearts that the monarchy is a historical absurdity. But because we lack the courage to abolish it (as indeed we lack the courage for any radical undertaking), we are taking out our anger at our own bad faith and torturing the individuals involved. 

David Hare, 1994

 

97) One is the objection that a king, once in office, can't be got rid of. The answer is that kings are got rid of very often, and usually very easily. 

H L Mencken, 1933

 

98) All republicans have to do is keep their nerve. The old bullfrog is puffing itself up for its last croak. 

Tom Nairn, 2000

 

99) He deign'd not to belie his soul in songs,
Nor turn his very talent to a crime;
He did not loathe the Sire to laud the Son,
But closed the tyrant-hater he begun.

Byron on Milton's republicanism, 1818

 

100) What I have spoken is the language of that which is not called amiss "The Good Old Cause". 

John Milton, 1660

 

Compiled by Nick Cohen, Francis Wheen, Steve Richards, Tessa Bold, Julius Walker, Caroline Igguiden. 7 August 2000.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall on a recent tour of Oman. Photo: Getty.

Letters, articles and notes from the New Statesman's centenary archive.

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Cabinet audit: what do Theresa May’s new hires mean for government?

The New Statesman team looks at the politics and policy behind the new Prime Minister’s cabinet appointments.

Liam Fox, International Trade Secretary

Only Nixon, it is said, could have gone to China. Only a politician with the impeccable Commie-bashing credentials of the 37th President had the political capital necessary to strike a deal with the People’s Republic of China.

Theresa May’s great hope is that only Liam Fox, the newly-installed Secretary of State for International Trade, has the Euro-bashing credentials to break the news to the Brexiteers that a deal between a post-Leave United Kingdom and China might be somewhat harder to negotiate than Vote Leave suggested.

The biggest item on the agenda: striking a deal that allows Britain to stay in the single market. Elsewhere, Fox should use his political capital with the Conservative right to wait longer to sign deals than a Remainer would have to, to avoid the United Kingdom being caught in a series of bad deals.

Stephen Bush

Andrea Leadsom, Environment Secretary

A little over a week into Andrea Leadsom’s new role as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), senior industry figures had already begun questioning her credentials. A growing list of campaigners have called for her resignation, and even the Cabinet Office implied that her department's responsibilities will be downgraded.

So far, so bad.

The appointment would appear to be something of a consolation prize, coming just days after Leadsom pulled out of the Conservative leadership race and allowed Theresa May to enter No 10 unopposed.

Yet while Leadsom may have been able to twist the truth on her CV in the City, no amount of tampering will improve the agriculture-related side to her record: one barely exists. In fact, recent statements made on the subject have only added to her reputation for vacuous opinion: “It would make so much more sense if those with the big fields do the sheep, and those with the hill farms do the butterflies,” she told an audience assembled for a referendum debate. No matter the livelihoods of thousands of the UK’s hilltop sheep farmers, then? No need for butterflies outside of national parks?

Normally such a lack of experience is unsurprising. The department has gained a reputation as something of a ministerial backwater; a useful place to send problematic colleagues for some sobering time-out.

But these are not normal times.

As Brexit negotiations unfold, Defra will be central to establishing new, domestic policies for UK food and farming; sectors worth around £108bn to the economy and responsible for employing one in eight of the population.

In this context, Leadsom’s appointment seems, at best, a misguided attempt to make the architects of Brexit either live up to their promises or be seen to fail in the attempt.

At worst, May might actually think she is a good fit for the job. Leadsom’s one, water-tight credential – her commitment toopposing restraints on industry – certainly has its upsides for a Prime Minister in need of an alternative to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP); a policy responsible for around 40 per cent the entire EU budget.

Why not leave such a daunting task in the hands of someone with an instinct for “abolishing” subsidies – thus freeing up money to spend elsewhere?

As with most things to do with the EU, CAP has some major cons and some equally compelling pros. Take the fact that 80 per cent of CAP aid is paid out to the richest 25 per cent of farmers (most of whom are either landed gentry or vast, industrialised, mega-farmers). But then offset this against the provision of vital lifelines for some of the UK’s most conscientious, local and insecure of food producers.

The NFU told the New Statesman that there are many issues in need of urgent attention; from an improved Basic Payment Scheme, to guarantees for agri-environment funding, and a commitment to the 25-year TB eradication strategy. But that they also hope, above all, “that Mrs Leadsom will champion British food and farming. Our industry has a great story to tell”.

The construction of a new domestic agricultural policy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Britain to truly decide where its priorities for food and environment lie, as well as to which kind of farmers (as well as which countries) it wants to delegate their delivery.

In the context of so much uncertainty and such great opportunity, Leadsom has a tough job ahead of her. And no amount of “speaking as a mother” will change that.

India Bourke

Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary

Having run Theresa May’s leadership campaign, Chris Grayling was always going to be in line for a pretty beefy promotion. And so it transpired, with the staunch Brexiteer being plucked from his post as Leader of the House of Commons to head the Department for Transport.

He has been a useful ally of May’s, reassuring fellow eurosceptics and Brexit voters that the once Remain-backing Prime Minister really means that “Brexit means Brexit”.

But his appointment will bring less comfort to DfT mandarins and those in the transport industry. Detractors who have previously worked for him in government usually either decry him as a hardline right winger, or suggest he is just simply not very bright. A notorious figure since his stint as Justice Secretary in 2012-15, Grayling is known for his uncompromising and compassionless (and often senseless) policy decisions – banning books being sent to prisoners, legal aid cuts, and controversial new court charges. The legal world was also riled by his lack of knowledge about the profession, as the first non-lawyer to serve as Lord Chancellor for nearly half a century.

However, Grayling is familiar with the transport brief, having shadowed the role in 2005-7, and he will have the same challenges as many past transport secretaries (and their shadows): the future of HS2, and the question of airport expansion. Politically sticky infrastructure projects that have been consistently kicked into the long grass. But perhaps May’s enthusiasm for a proper industrial policy – and shelving of austerity targets – will mean Grayling has to get more done on such matters than his prevaricating predecessors.

Anoosh Chakelian

Karen Bradley, Culture Secretary

The most politically charged of the culture minister's responsibilities is overseeing the BBC, and to anyone who works for - or simply loves - the national broadcaster, Karen Bradley has one big point in her favour. She is not John Whittingdale. Her predecessor as culture secretary was notorious for his belief that the BBC was a wasteful, over-mighty organisation which needed to be curbed. And he would have had ample opportunity to do this: the BBC's Charter is due for renewal next year, and the licence fee is only fixed until 2017. 

In her previous job at the Home Office, Karen Bradley gained a reputation as a calm, low-key minister. It now seems likely that the charter renewal will be accomplished with fewer frothing editorials about "BBC bias" and more attention to the challenges facing the organisation as viewing patterns fragment and increasing numbers of viewers move online.

Of the rest of the job, the tourism part just got easier: with the pound so weak, it will be easier to attract visitors to Britain from abroad. And as for press regulation, there is no word strong enough to describe how long the grass is into which it has been kicked.

Helen Lewis

Sajid Javid, Communities Secretary

Sajid Javid is a pinup for Tory aspiration – son of a British-Pakistani bus driver, he worked his way from his local comprehensive in Rochdale to the towers of New York.

At 20, he was attending the Conservative Party Conference and by 25 he was the youngest vice-president of Chase Manhattan Bank. This was the start of an international career that took him to London and Singapore.

After winning the seat of Bromsgrove in 2010, Javid began an equally rapid political rise. By the end of 2011, he was the parliamentary private secretary to the then-Chancellor, George Osborne.

The following years saw him climb the Treasury’s stairs. And a year’s break from economic policy found him haunting the foyers of London’s West End as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. But by 2015, he was back in Osborne’s sphere of influence as Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

He is now the most high-profile survivor of Theresa May’s purge of the Osbornites (she and the former Chancellor often clashed in cabinet), but downgraded to the slightly less weighty position of Communities and Local Government Secretary.

Could Sajid Javid be Britain's first Asian Prime Minister? asked the Daily Mail in 2014. As it is, the new PM has sent his path to power on something of a detour. He's held onto a seat at the cabinet table, but with Osborne on the backbenches, he’s on his own.

Julia Rampen

Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary

The world shared a stunned silence when news broke that Boris Johnson would be the new Foreign Secretary. Johnson, who once referred to black people as “piccaninnies” and more recently accused the half-Kenyan President of the United States of only commenting on the EU referendum because of bitterness about colonialism, will now be Britain’s representative on the world stage.

His colourful career immediately came back to haunt him when US journalists accused him of “outright lies” and reminded him of the time he likened Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to a “sadistic nurse”. Johnson’s previous appearances on the international stage include a speech in Beijing where he maintained that ping pong was actually the Victorian game of “whiff whaff”.

But Johnson has always been more than a blond buffoon, and this appointment is a shrewd one by May. His popularity in the country at large, apparently helped by getting stuck on a zip line and havingnumerous affairs, made him an obvious threat to David Cameron’s premiership. His decision to defect to the Leave campaign was widely credited with bringing it success. He canned his leadership campaign after Michael Gove launched his own bid, but the question of whether his chutzpah would beat May’s experience and gravity is still unknown.

In giving BoJo the Foreign Office, then, May hands him the photo opportunities he craves. Meanwhile, the man with real power in international affairs will be David Davis, who as Brexit minister has the far more daunting task of renegotiating Britain’s trade deals.

Julia Rampen

Philip Hammond, Chancellor

Even officials with leftwing politics hoped that Theresa May would keep George Osborne in place at the Treasury, for two reasons: firstly because he is a considerate boss, and secondly because his exit from frontline politics likely means the end of a 19-year period of dominance by the Treasury, in which, whether under Gordon Brown, Osborne or even under Alistair Darling, whoever has been in office, the Treasury has been in power.

But Philip Hammond was very much the second choice, way ahead of any of the possible figures. Hammond was the biggest beast to back May’s candidacy and was rewarded for the Treasury brief that coalition denied him (he had shadowed the post of Chief Secretary to the Treasury in opposition but the mechanics of the coalition meant the post had to be given to a Liberal Democrat). Before May’s accession to the premiership, he had already lined up with her on negotiations with the European Union and Osborne’s deficit targets (now shelved).

Hammond comes in with the economy looking pre-recessional and with Britain’s future participation in the single market in some doubt. (Hammond has publicly said Britain ought to remain in the single market above all else – May is more concerned about immigration, while the Brexit-backing ministers are divided.)

What ought he to do? The big task is to get the construction industry back on its feet. Happily, although the decline in Britain’s credit rating has made borrowing more expensive, low interest rates at home and abroad make the case for fiscal stimulus stronger than ever, and mean the government can borrow on the cheap. Launching programmes of housebuilding, transport infrastructure and clean energy would be good ways to try to avert or at least ride out any economic shocks. (From an economic perspective albeit not an environmental one, it makes sense to approve new runways at Heathrow and Gatwick, two “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects that have private money behind them.)

But the big victory that Hammond could achieve at the Treasury would be to defeat the Brexiteer ultras and keep Britain in the single market.

Stephen Bush

Amber Rudd, Home Secretary

The good news first: Amber Rudd, MP for Hastings and Rye since 2010, joins May in the Great Offices of State. This is the first time two of these four positions have been held by women at the same time. Rudd is only the fifth woman ever to hold one.

The ex-Energy Secretary will take the reins directly from May, so it’s fair to assume she’ll carry on much of the work begun by the longest-serving Home Secretary since 1892. Rudd is unlikely to rock the boat here – she has not rebelled once in this parliamentary term. Therese Coffey MP told the Telegraph that May sees Rudd as “a safe pair of hands”.

The Investigatory Powers bill, or so-called Snoopers’ Charter, was a high priority for May, and is currently making its way through the Lords. Despite objections raised in the House around the protection of communications with journalists’ sources and lawyers’ clients, it’s likely it’ll pass without much fuss. Depending on the amendments that make it through, it may allow security services to hack into our computers and phones (including cameras and microphones), and require back doors to be built in encrypted messaging systems.

Rudd has repeatedly voted for a stricter asylum system by restricting the support available to failed asylum seekers, and denying permission for them to work if they’re in the UK for over six months. She was absent for a vote on sparing migrants from deportation on human rights grounds. May stubbornly sought to cut net migration in her time as Home Secretary, and created a minimum income threshold (£35,000) for non-EU citizens who have lived in the UK for less than ten years and who are hoping to stay.

Since taking the leadership May has confirmed that “we should have that goal of bringing immigration down to sustainable levels”. This is now down to Rudd, who in a fiery Brexit TV debate with Boris Johnson argued that immigration is “a complex problem…you need to look at the numbers. But the only number Boris is interested in is Number 10!”

Female Genital Mutilation within the UK also falls within the Home Office remit, and Rudd may try to make her own mark here. She is vice-chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Female Genital Mutilation and has called for stricter laws around the practice.

Barbara Speed

Justine Greening, Education Secretary

An early supporter of the new Prime Minister, and longstanding cabinet member, Justine Greening was always heading for promotion in a Theresa May cabinet. Her former territory, the Department for International Development, loyally picked up a lot of slack from the Home Office on migration issues under Greening's leadership, and she has regularly worked closely with May.

Personal allegiances aside, Greening is a sensible choice for the Department for Education. She is the first Education Secretary to have been educated at a comprehensive school, and as the first openly gay woman to serve in cabinet, she is a good choice for the Women and Equalities brief, which she also carries.

Theresa May’s first speech as Prime Minister highlighted two huge problems that many would attribute to the education system: how white working-class boys are “less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university”; and how “If you’re at a state school, you’re less likely to reach the top professions than if you’re educated privately”.

Going some way to solving these two huge problems will be Greening’s aim, though really the issues go far deeper than her new department. Still, there is scope for improvement, beginning with an increased focus upon early years education: by the age of five, there is a 19-month gap in school readiness between the most and least disadvantaged children.

The UK is almost unique in having larger class sizes for primary than secondary school, which is barmy; addressing that should be part of a whole project of centring UK education policy on the first years in life, which are the most important, and ceasing the endless tinkering with secondary education.

Alas, many in the Conservative party do not want the tinkering to stop. There is a renewed call for the ban on opening new grammars to be overturned. There are 163 remaining today, concentrated in a few selective counties. The government’s approval of a new grammar school annexe in Sevenoaks last October, ten miles away from the original site, hints at many more to come, with ten council areas keen to open more satellite schools – effectively bringing grammar schools back through the back door.

The nostalgic argument to bring back grammar schools seems perverse considering that, in areas that maintain fully selective education like Kent, poorer pupils do worse than the national average and the attainment gap between the most advantaged and disadvantaged students is above the national average. It also ignores that the countries that perform best in education are those that separate latest, and demand the highest standards of all pupils until 16.

Greening will have more to grapple with than her predecessor Nicky Morgan, because the education brief has now been expanded to include higher education. Integrating the two could have some negative effects: schools and universities will now effectively be competing with each other for funding within the department. Whereas universities' former place in the Department for Business recognised how they are a British export and a driver of business.

But this integration gives Greening the opportunity to improve communication between elite universities and state schools, thereby improving access to the top universities. The coming vote on increasing tuition fees to £9,250 might give her an opportunity to demand that some universities ramp up their access work, as they did when fees when trebled in 2010. Yet she will soon realise that, while some universities could undoubtedly do more, the crux of the issue is way earlier, in the earliest years of life. This should be her main focus.

Tim Wigmore

Damian Green, Work and Pensions Secretary

"There will always be a little bit of the Home Office inside me,” Theresa May told her civil servants when she left 2 Marsham Street for the last time.

There is more than a little bit of the Home Office in her government, too, with trusted old hands from her old department now stretched out across the government. Damian Green, a long-term ally of May’s – and, like her, a veteran of the Conservatives’ internal battles to modernise from long before David Cameron arrived on the scene – and a trusted lieutenant in the Home Office, returns to government having been sacked by Cameron in 2014.

The appointment gives us a clue as to how May views the troubled Universal Credit programme and the Department for Work and Pensions overall. The DWP came to be regarded as something of a basket case on Whitehall and was at continual loggerheads – something that Stephen Crabb was brought in to fix after Iain Duncan Smith quit the government. Crabb’s resignation from the government following stories that he had sent salacious texts to a young woman stymied that project.

Step forward Green. It feels likely that his appointment is a signal that Downing Street is well aware of the problems with IDS’ failed reforms and the need for a competent hand to bring the department back into equilibrium. There’s an irony that the progressive wishlist for the DWP – unwind much of the Duncan Smith agenda, and get the department making headlines for positive reasons – is shared both by the Prime Minister and by the new boss at Caxton Street.

Stephen Bush

Priti Patel, International Development Secretary

Perhaps one of the least palatable new hires for Whitehall bods is Priti Patel, semi-promoted from cabinet-attending Employment Minister to International Development Secretary. The right winger is known for being on the neo-Thatcherite vanguard of the party characterised by the provocative 2012 treatise Britannia Unchained, which she co-authored – championing free market economics and a smaller state. So having her at the helm of any department would legitimately give civil servants the jitters.

But Dfid, though one of the less political departments, is a particularly controversial charge for Patel. In 2013, she suggested to the Daily Telegraph that it should be scrapped in favour of a more trade-focused department, calling for, “the consideration to replace Dfid with a Department for International Trade and Development in order to enable the UK to focus on enhancing trade with the developing world and seek out new investment opportunities in the global race. It is possible to bring more prosperity to the developing world and enable greater wealth transfers to be made from the UK by fostering greater trade and private sector investment opportunities.”

The International Development Act makes it illegal to tie aid to trade, so Patel will find it tough to pursue her ideological aims. But there are things she can do to change the tone and focus of the Department; her initial statement upon taking the job emphasises “working across government, with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the new Department for International Trade, the Home Office and others”. 

She could even advocate for repealing David Cameron’s commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of GDP on development, which was enshrined in law last year. Although it is unlikely she would try this, removing the ring fence on the Dfid budget might actually become a tempting prospect for the rest of government, which is set to become even more cash-strapped as a result of Brexit.

We can only hope that Dfid’s ability to keep its ministers out of the political fray, and regularly travelling overseas, will curb this threat.

Anoosh Chakelian

David Davis, Brexit Secretary

David Davis is proof that there are second acts in political lives. Eleven years after he was defeated by David Cameron in the Conservative leadership contest, and 19 years after he last served in government, Davis has been tasked by Theresa May with negotiating Brexit.

It was a role that the Leave supporter had pitched for throughout the EU referendum campaign, though he was still surprised by his elevation. When the call from Downing Street came, Davis was drinking with a former researcher in a Commons bar and initially ignored his phone. As Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, he will now be one of the new administration’s defining figures.

The Haltemprice and Howden MP, 67, served as Europe minister from 1994-97, a role in which he acquired the sobriquet  “Monsieur Non”. He has already displayed similar implacability in his new post. To the charge that opening trade talks with other countries would be illegal under EU law, Davis replied: “Well that’s what they say, they can’t tell us who to talk to . . . What are they are going to do?” He has also warned that European migrants who arrive before Brexit is complete could be denied the right to remain.

Davis expects Article 50, which sets a two-year limit for withdrawal, to be triggered “before or by the start” of 2017. Rater than retaining single market membership (as Norway does), he favours Canadian-style tariff-free access. This would grant the UK exemption from free movement and EU budget contributions but would deny financial services the right to unhindered trade (known as “passporting”).

The former SAS reservist is best remembered by many for resigning as shadow home secretary in 2008 in order to fight a by-election over the issue of 42-day detention. After remaining outside Cameron’s team, he became a redoubtable defender of civil liberties from the backbenches. The council estate boy was also one of just two Tory MPs to originally vote against tax credit cuts (a record of rebellion that also includes tuition fees, capital gains tax, child benefit cuts, House of Lords reform, boundary changes and Syria).

When I interviewed him in May, Davis warned that any attempt to withdraw the UK from the European Convention on Human Rights would be defeated by himself and “a dozen” other Conservatives (a group known as the “Runnymede Tories” after the meadow where Magna Carta was sealed). It was a stance that May abandoned shortly after launching her leadership campaign.

Davis boasts the rare feat of joining the government while simultaneously suing it. In partnership with Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson, he launched a European court action against the Home Office, May’s former department, over the bulk retention of communications data. “I would be surprised if the ECJ doesn’t find in my favour and that will have big implications for the IP [Investigatory Powers] bill,” he told me.

As one of the “three Brexiters” at the head of May’s government (the others being Boris Johnson and Liam Fox), Davis will compete not only for supremacy over policy. The trio have been ordered to share Chevening, the foreign secretary’s traditional country residence, in Kent.

George Eaton

Greg Clark, Business Secretary

A PhD in economics and a career in management consulting would suggest that the new Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has a flare for maths. Yet when it comes to policy, Greg Clark's record doesn't always add up. 

A renowned Tory moderniser, Clark's appointment to head the new department (born out of watering down BIS, and dismantling DECC) has been greeted with optimism from the business community and green sector alike. He “gets climate change”, said Ruth Davis from the E3G energy policy think tank.

As a former policy director, he helped found and champion David Cameron’s Big Society initiative. He has since been through a succession of frontbench roles, consistently voted in favour of gay marriage, helped devolve power to cities, and made a splash by arguing that Polly Toynbee, not Winston Churchill, should set the Conservative agenda.

Yet can this Middlesbrough-born son of a milkman succeed in growing a green economy where his Big Society agenda appears to have so markedly failed?

The greatest challenge his new, enlarged, and hopefully more empowered, department faces is to grow UK industry at the same time as urgently reducing our emissions. Luckily this is something that Clark also perceives to be one of the country's greatest opportunities. He has criticised those who challenge action on climate change, shown a readiness to plan for the worst when it comes to interpreting climate science, and provided an ambitious vision for Britain’s green economy: “Britain could be the Saudi Arabia of marine energy”, he said in 2009.

Yet while his words have promoted wave-power, his actions have tended to change like the tide. His reputation for devolving power to local governments was seriously dented last year, when it was announced that Clark – then the Communities & Local Government Secretary – not the local council, would get the final say over permission to frack in Lancashire. Other concerning examples of this “do as I say, not as I do” tendency include voting to lower taxes on fuel and for cuts to renewable subsidies. 

He must therefore work fast to ensure that his reputation for blue sky thinking is more than a lot of hot air. Barry Gardiner, Labour's shadow energy secretary, has suggested that accelerating energy efficiency, developing Carbon Capture Storage and bringing forward the government’s promised Carbon Plan, would all be good places to start.

The rise of Clark and his new department is likely to be linked to the demise of the Department for Energy and Climate Change – and the loss of climate change from a cabinet nameplate. Yet if he can steer new policy in the right direction, towards making environmental costs integral to industry rather than an afterthought, he might yet make this chequered inheritance his greatest strength.

India Bourke

James Brokenshire, Northern Ireland Secretary

Remember Northern Ireland? You could be forgiven for forgetting it – certainly, for most of the EU referendum campaign, the fate of the region, which receives £120m a year in funds from the European Union, and thanks to the free movement of labour and the Common Travel Agreement no longer has a hard border between the North and the South.

Now that is in jeopardy, and thanks to the landslide endorsement of Remain by the region’s voters, tensions between Northern Ireland and the mainland are understandably high.

Neglected during the campaign, Northern Ireland has been forgotten during the discussion of what Brexit means. Most of the attention over what Britain’s Leave vote means for its constituent kingdoms has focused on whether Scotland stays in the Union or not – little attention has been given to the £600m hit to the Welsh economy or to what Brexit could do to Northern Ireland’s peace process.

Step forward James Brokenshire. Just as during the Blair era, Gordon Brown brought his protégés up through the Treasury before diffusing them throughout the government machinery, Theresa May has handed jobs to Home Office juniors who she knows and respects.

Brokenshire’s brief will be to shield Northern Ireland from the consequences of the loss of EU funds and ensure that whatever post-Brexit deal is struck, a hard border between North and South remains off the agenda.

Stephen Bush