Theresa May has kept Jeremy Hunt as her health secretary with new responsibility for social care, signalling that the prime minister wants to have another go at reforming the troubled system.
Hunt was rumoured to be moving to a new role as May’s deputy but will stay in his job to address the worsening winter crisis in the NHS and take more control over social care.
The deputy job has now been given to David Lidington, who moves from the role of justice secretary and will take over as minister for the Cabinet Office, chairing the big cabinet committees and standing in for May at prime minister’s questions.
Hunt’s new remit is a sign that May wants to return to the difficult issue of social care, after abandoning a deeply unpopular election policy to make people pay for elderly care out of the value of their property. Labour branded the policy a “dementia tax” and it was swiftly dropped after the election.
Two other cabinet ministers who were said to be facing the chop – Sajid Javid and Greg Clark – have also kept their jobs in the reshuffle. Javid’s role has been changed from communities and local government to housing, communities and local government, part of May’s attempts to focus more attention on housing issues. Clark’s job is staying the same as secretary of state for business, energy and industrial policy.
Earlier, the shake-up got off to a chaotic start after an official Tory Twitter account announced that Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, was the new party chair, when Brandon Lewis was given the role instead.
No 10 also announced that Amber Rudd would remain as home secretary, Philip Hammond as chancellor and David Davis as Brexit secretary. Boris Johnson was also announced as staying in the job of foreign secretary, shortly after he was seen going into Downing Street.
A No 10 announcement said Lidington, who was also formerly leader of the Commons and is a generally popular figure among Tory MPs, had been made minister for the Cabinet Office and chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
There was no news about who would replace him as justice secretary, a job he had only held for seven months.
While Downing Street confirmed that his new role remained a cabinet post, Lidington has not been made first secretary of state, the courtesy title that gave Green the job of May’s effective deputy.
Green was sacked in December after an investigation found he had lied about the discovery of pornography on his office computer during a police raid in 2008. However, No 10 said Lidington would chair all the influential Cabinet Office committees formerly chaired by Green, meaning he has effectively the same job, but without the first secretary of state title.
Following the first confirmed move of the day – James Brokenshire resigned as Northern Ireland secretary for health reasons – several reports said Grayling was being moved from being transport secretary to party chair.
This appeared confirmed after the official Conservative Twitter account sent a photo of Grayling with the message: “Congratulations to Chris Grayling following his appointment as Conservative party chairman.”
However, this message was very quickly deleted, as reports began that Lewis might get the post instead.
About an hour later came the announcement from Downing Street that Lewis was leaving the Home Office to become minister without portfolio and chair of the party.
It had been confirmed earlier that the incumbent party chairman, Patrick McLoughlin, had stood down. He had been under pressure since the disastrous election campaign and an incident when a prankster got into the party conference to hand May a fake P45 during her main speech.
Earlier, it was announced that Brokenshire would leave. The long-time ally of May has been unable to resurrect the suspended Northern Ireland assembly following a political collapse after a scandal over a botched green heating subsidy scheme.
In an exchange of letters released by No 10, Brokenshire told May he had a small lesion on his right lung which would require surgery.
Brokenshire wrote that he had hoped to continue in the job: “I recognise, however, that as a result of my forthcoming surgery I will not be able to give the effort, energy and complete focus needed at this important time if we are to secure the positive outcomes both you and I are committed to achieving.”
May wrote back to say she was “sorry to hear about your medical situation” and accepted his resignation.
James Cleverly, the MP for Braintree, elected in 2015, has been appointed as the Tory party’s deputy chair, the party’s media account tweeted. It also said Chris Skidmore, the constitution minister, had been named vice-chair for policy, with Ben Bradley and Kemi Badenoch – who both entered parliament in June – made vice-chairs for youth and candidates respectively. Bradley is 27. Maria Caulfield was named vice-chair for women.
The wholesale revamp of Conservative party operations, widely expected ahead of the reshuffle, saw a series of other MPs made vice-chairs: Rehman Chishti and Helen Grant for communities; Andrew Jones for business engagement; Marcus Jones for local government; and James Morris for training.
The appointments mark a demotion for Skidmore, Andrew Jones and Marcus Jones, all of whom have lost ministerial jobs with the move. Skidmore has left the Cabinet Office, while Andrew Jones was a junior Treasury minister and Marcus Jones has gone from being local government minister to the unpaid job of party vice-chair for the same area.