Boris Johnson’s reshuffle rewarded a number of Brexit-supporting MPs who, on the face of it, appeared odd choices for the roles to which they were appointed.
Critics say the government’s choice to lead on the climate emergency has previously seemed a somewhat half-hearted environmentalist, the new attorney general has taken a dim view of the courts and the international development secretary appears to have questioned the value of international aid.
As president of the crunch UN Cop26 climate talks to be hosted by the UK this November, Sharma has a critical role. Yet he showed little interest in the climate emergency before taking over as secretary for international development last July. He has used the term “climate” only six times in parliament, and on only two of those occasions did he have anything substantive to say about the crisis.
A Guardian analysis showed he voted only twice in favour of climate protection in 13 votes on the issue. Campaigners are also concerned that his dual role as business secretary will make him beholden to powerful vested interests. However, he did urge the World Bank last October to devote more funding to the climate.
The new attorney general has often seemed at odds with the courts. She supported the proroguing of parliament, which was later ruled illegal by the supreme court. In an article last year, she defended the prime minister’s controversial move.
She said: “They [remainers] say that proroguing parliament is thwarting democracy … They argue that Boris Johnson is stopping MPs from holding the government to account. That’s hypocritical … What the ‘Outrage Brigade’ has failed to mention during its angry five minutes on air is that parliament was already going to be away on recess for party conferences for three weeks.”
In a comment piece on the Conservative Home website last month, she accused the courts of exercising “a form of political power”. She said that while the Human Rights Act was “noble in its intentions”, “the concept of ‘fundamental’ human rights has been stretched beyond recognition”.
The new international development secretary has raised questions about the value of international aid.
In 2012 – three years before she became MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed – she replied to a tweet from DfID saying: “No one in Africa should go hungry,” by saying: “Nor in the UK. There r kids in NE who have no regular meals due to chaotic parents. Should they go hungry?”
A year later, she tweeted about an article by the Conservative donor Michael Ashcroft calling for an end to the guaranteed aid budget of 0.7% of gross national income (GNI), saying: “Interesting article by Lord Ashcroft on the value (or otherwise) of the overseas aid budget,” ending with “#charitybeginsathome”.
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