Reshuffle: Britain's richest MP Richard Benyon sacked in Cameron's 'flat cap' reshuffle to promote working-class Tories

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  • Prime Minister sends Richard Benyon to the backbenchers in shake-up
  • Working-class, northern and women MPs expected to be promoted
  • Reshuffle dubbed 'night of the long drives' as wealthy MPs get the boot
  • Promotions for Esther McVey, Sajid Javid, Mike Penning and Nicky Morgan
  • Lib Dems Michael Moore and Jeremy Browne are also sacked
  • Labour leader Ed Miliband also planning to overhaul his frontbench

By Matt Chorley, Mailonline Political Editor

PUBLISHED: 04:09 EST, 7 October 2013 | UPDATED: 09:27 EST, 7 October 2013

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David Cameron today began his 'flat cap' reshuffle to promote working-class Tories to government jobs as he sacked Britain's richest MP.

Richard Benyon, the heir to a £125million family fortune, was the first casualty of the shake-up of middle-ranking government jobs.

He lost his job as fisheries minister in the overhaul quickly dubbed the 'night of the long drives' as wealthy MPs with large estates are told to make way for northern, young and women MPs including Esther NcVey, Mike Penning and Sajid Javid.

Nick Clegg also wielded the axe, sacking Michael Moore as Scottish Secretary and Jeremy Browne from the Home Office.

You're fire: David Cameron ordered a cull of older, male, southern and posh ministers in an attempt to counter claims the Tory party is out of touch with large parts of the country

You're fire: David Cameron ordered a cull of older, male, southern and posh ministers in an attempt to counter claims the Tory party is out of touch with large parts of the country

Feeding the poor: Britain's richest MP Richard Benyon, sacked in today's reshuffle, takes part in a tradition where the owner of Ufton Court in Berkshire hands local people loaves of bread through a window

Feeding the poor: Britain's richest MP Richard Benyon, sacked in today's reshuffle, takes part in a tradition where the owner of Ufton Court in Berkshire hands local people loaves of bread through a window

Farewell: Richard Benyon was the first victim of the reshuffle designed to remove posh southern Tory MPs from government jobs

Farewell: Richard Benyon was the first victim of the reshuffle designed to remove posh southern Tory MPs from government jobs

Mr Benyon sparked controversy earlier this year when he claimed too many people do not store fruit and vegetables correctly and could cut their shopping bills if they read food labels properly.

It later emerged he hands loaves of bread to local villagers through the window of his mansion house in a bizarre tradition which dates back to 1581.

The government was been stung by criticism that it is out of touch after Mr Benyon claimed the average family wastes food worth £50-a-month.

Today Mr Benyon tweeted: 'On back benches! 3 and half really fun years with much achieved. Really appreciate time working with outstanding Ministers and Officials.'

But he may not miss it too much. Last week he revealed the 'glamour' of life on a trade mission to Brazil 'bigging up UK sewage and waste companies and selling chicken hearts and bulls semen'.

He has been replaced at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs by George Eustice, a former strawberry farmer who once worked as a spokesman for Mr Cameron.

In: Former TV presenter Esther McVey, who used to host GMTV, has been promoted to Minister of State for Employment

In: Former TV presenter Esther McVey, who used to host GMTV, has been promoted to Minister of State for Employment

On the up: Former fireman Mike Penning (left) becomes a minister of state for Work and Pensions, Nicky Morgan becomes Economic Secretary to the Treasury, replacing Sajid Javid who is promoted to Financial Secretary

SHUFFLING THE DECKS: HOW THE GOVERNMENT CHANGES LOOK

The coalition is carrying out a reshuffle, with the major changes expected in the middle-ranks.

Northern, working class and women MPs are expected to be promoted. The changes so far include:

Scottish Secretary

IN: Alistair Carmichael, Lib Dem

OUT: Michael Moore, Lib Dem

Home Office minister

IN: Norman Baker, Lib Dem

OUT: Jeremy Browne, Lib Dem

Transport minister

IN: Baroness Kramer

OUT:  Norman Baker, Lib Dem

Employment minister

IN: Esther McVey, Con

OUT: Mark Hoban, Con

Financial Secretary to the Treasury

IN: Sajid Javid, Con

OUT: Greg Clark, Con

Economic Secretary to the Treasury

IN: Nicky Morgan, Con

OUT: Sajid Javid, Con

Foreign Office minister

IN: Hugh Robertson, Con

OUT: Alistair Burt, Con

Sports and tourism minister

IN: Helen Grant, Con

OUT: Hugh Robertson, Con

Northern Ireland minister

IN: Andrew Robathan, Con

OUT: Mike Penning, Con

Cabinet Office minister

IN: Greg Clark, Con

OUT: Chloe Smith, Con

Lib Dem chief whip

IN: Don Foster. Lib Dem

OUT: Alastair Carmichael, Lib Dem

Tory deputy chief whip

IN: Greg Hands, Con

OUT: John Randall, Con

Justice and victims' minister

IN: Shailesh Vara, Con

OUT: Helen Grant, Con

Fisheries minister

IN: George Eustice, Con

OUT: Richard Benyon, Con

Transport minister

IN: Robert Goodwill, Con

OUT: Simon Burns, Con

Local government minister

OUT: Don Foster, Lib Dem

Housing minister

OUT: Mark Prisk, Con

Mr Cameron is determined to use the reshuffle to counter claims that the government is out of touch, and pack the lower ranks of ministers with high fliers who could be catapulted into the Cabinet next year.

But in a surprise move, Nick Clegg today sacked the government's Scottish Secretary Michael Moore, less than a year before the historic vote on Scotland leaving the UK.

On the Tory side, Liverpudlian former TV presenter Esther McVey became the first big winner of the reshuffle, promoted to become employment minister at a time when jobless numbers are falling.

Miss McVey, who fronted GMTV and How Do They Do That? before pursuing a political career, was only elected as an MP in 2010 and has been junior minister for the disabled since September last year.

She replaces Mark Hoban who said his sacking after 12 years on the frontbench was 'not his finest day'.

Mike Penning, a former fireman who worked as a spin doctor for Iain Duncan Smith when he was Tory leader, joins his old boss as a minister of state at the Department for Work and Pensions.

Lib Dem sources stressed that Steve Webb would remain as pensions minister.

A number of junior ministers - officially known as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State - are expected to be elevated to Minister of State level, just outside the Cabinet.

Sajid Javid, who was born in Rochdale, is promoted from his junior Treasury post to the rank of Financial Secretary.

He is replaced as Economic Secretary by Nicky Morgan, who was also elected in 2010 and gives the Treasury team a female minister.

Mark Prisk, a former surveyor and marketing director, is sacked as housing minister.

He wrote on Twitter that he had been 'asked to step aside from Housing for a younger generation'.

He said the decision was 'disappointing but it's been a great eleven years on frontbencher'.

Jeremy Browne has been sacked as the Lib Dem minister at the Home Office, with aides to Mr Clegg complaining that he failed to make an impact since moving from the Foreign Office last year.

A standard-bearer for the right-wing of the party, he is replaced by left-leaning Lib Dem Norman Baker, best known for his claims that government weapons expert David Kelly was murdered.

Exchanging letters with Mr Browne, Mr Clegg said it was 'always very difficult to move colleagues out of government'.

'But as you know, I have always been keen that we provide the opportunity for as many in our ranks as possible to contribute their skills to ministerial office during this Parliament so that, just as the Government has benefited from your contribution over the past three years, it can also gain from those of other colleagues in the remaining years of this Parliament.'

In his response, Mr Browne warned against the Lib Dems being seduced into returning to being a party of 'easy and permanent opposition'.

He added: 'I hope the Government will continue to strive to be reforming and innovative and avoid the danger of lapsing into transactional trade-offs and deferred decision making.'

Baroness Kramer, a former Lib Dem MP who lost her seat in 2010, replaced Mr Baker as a transport minister.

Helen Grant is moved from her role as a junior minister at the Ministry of Justice to the same role at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

She replaces Hugh Robertson, who becomes minister of state at the Foreign Office, in a move seen as reward for guiding same-sex marriage into law.

Last night two Tory MPs - John Randall and Chloe Smith - quit the government ahead of the reshuffle.

Mr Randall's job as deputy chief whip has gone to Greg Hands, MP for Chelsea and Fulham and a close ally of George Osborne.

Fired: Jeremy Browne, a leading voice on the right of the Lib Dems, has been sacked as Home Office minister

Fired: Jeremy Browne, a leading voice on the right of the Lib Dems, has been sacked as Home Office minister

Out: Housing minister Mark Prisk (left) is sacked as housing minister to make way for a 'younger generation', Mark Hoban is fired as employment minister while Simon Burns resigned as transport minister before the reshuffle began

KEEN COOK LANDED IN HOT WATER WITH HIS FOOD TIPS FOR THE POOR

Calling time: Britain's richest MP Richard Benyon has been sacked as fisheries minister

Richard Benyon lists cooking among his interests in his Who's Who entry. But his comments about food waste in the kitchen landed him in hot water in April.

The ministerial advice on how to store food is made more politically damaging by the fact that the 49-year-old is Britain's richest MP.

As the heir to the heir to former MP Sir William Benyon, he stands to inherit some £110million from the vast 20,000 acres Englefield Estate in Berkshire.

Born in October 1960, he attended public school Bradfield College. He studied for an statement management degree at the Royal Agricultural College - dubbed the Oxford for gentleman farmers - and served as a soldier in the Royal Green Jackets.

He married Emma Villiers in 1988 and had three sons before divorcing. In 2004 he married Zoe Robinson and the couple have two sons. He was elected Tory MP for Newbury in 2005.

A shooting and fishing enthusiast, he courted controversy after becoming an environment minister in 2010, including sanctioning a cull of buzzards, selling off forests and cutting flood defences.

Michael Moore was ousted as Scottish Secretary after struggling to make an impact in a job seen as vital for making the case against independence.

He will be replaced by Lib Dem chief whip Alistair Carmichael, who is seen as a more combative figure to take on First Minister Alex Salmond.

Local government minister Don Foster becomes Lib Dem chief whip.

The move came as a surprise to Mr Moore, who had expected to launch a report on the implications of independence on defence this week.

Mr Moore is considered by Mr Clegg to have performed well in negotiating the independence referendum between London and Edinburgh and passing the legislation needed to make it happen.

But he is not seen as the political streetfighter needed to take the fight to Mr Salmond.

He floundered in a recent debate with Scottish deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Mr Carmichael will become one of the five Lib Dems in the coalition Cabinet.

Scottish voters will have their say on leaving the UK in a referendum on September 18 next year.

Most opinion polls have shown support for independence in the high twenties.

In the traditional 'exchange of letters' between Mr Clegg and Mr Moore, the Lib Dem leader made clear that he needed 'difference experience' around the Cabinet table as the fight to save the Union intensifies.

Mr Clegg told Mr Moore: 'It should be recognised that you secured both the Scotland Act and the Edinburgh Agreement in the context of a majority SNP government at Holyrood, and against a backdrop of an external political narrative that often suggested the legislation would fail and a referendum agreement could not be secured.

'You have achieved all of this while working ceaselessly for the interests of the Scottish people within the United Kingdom.

'I believe we now need to draw on different experience in the final year running up to the referendum itself and I am keen that just as we have benefited from your formidable skills over the past three years that we take advantage of other experience within our ranks during this period.'

He left the door open for Mr Moore to return to government in the future, although he will return to the backbenches now.

LIB DEM CONSPIRACY THEORIST GIVEN SHOCK JOB IN THE HOME OFFICE

Controversy: As an opposition MP Norman Baker wrote a book claiming Dr David Kelly was murdered

Controversy: As an opposition MP Norman Baker wrote a book claiming Dr David Kelly was murdered

One of the biggest shocks in the reshuffle came as Jeremy Browne was sacked as the Lib Dem minister at the Home Office.

Even more surprising was his replacement - Norman Baker, who believes government weapons expert David Kelly was murdered in 2003.

A staunch conspiracy theorist, Mr Baker wrote a book six years ago in which he claimed Dr Kelly did not commit suicide after being outed as the source of a claim that the Blair government 'sexed up' its case for war in Iraq.

Mr Baker concluded that the 'murder' was probably carried out by an Iraqi assassin, with the death covered up by British intelligence forces.

It is those same security officers with whom he will have to work closely as the Lib Dem man in the Home Office.

He moves from transport, where he campaigned for more investment in rail and cycling projects.

Mr Browne, meanwhile, is sent to the backbenches, despite being one of the Lib Dems' strongest media performers and a keen advocate for remaining in coalition.

Mr Moore replied: 'This has been, and will continue to be, a hugely important time in Scottish politics and that has made it a challenging and rewarding time to be Secretary of State for Scotland.'

He added: 'In leaving the Scotland Office I am pleased that Alistair will be succeeding me. As a good friend and long-time colleague, I believe he will do a superb job. I wish him all the best.'

However the SNP were quick to point out that Mr Carmichael has previously called for the Scotland Office, which he now heads, to be abolished.

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson MP said: 'Mr Carmichael’s new role in the "indefensible" Scotland Office is presumably to help spread more scare stories about Scotland and independence - something the Tories must have believed Michael Moore wasn't sufficiently adept at or committed to.

'In any event, this panic reaction by Westminster indicates serious problems in the No campaign - which appointing someone to the post who believes the post should be abolished will do nothing to solve.'

Michael Moore has been sacked as Scottish Secretary after three years in the job
Alistair Carmichael is seen as a political bruiser capable of taking the fight to Alex Salmond

Switch: Michael Moore (left) has been sacked as Scottish Secretary to make way for political bruiser Alistair Carmichael, who will take the fight to Alex Salmond ahead of next year's independence referendum

Axe: Nick Clegg was first to sack a senior minster, warning he needed 'different experience' in his top team to save the Union

Axe: Nick Clegg was first to sack a senior minster, warning he needed 'different experience' in his top team to save the Union

WITTY BRUISER WHO LIKES A 'GOOD MALT' READY TO TAKE ON SALMOND

Alistair Carmichael cannot toast his promotion because he has given up drinking from October

Alistair Carmichael will not be able to toast his Cabinet promotion tonight - he has given up drinking for a month.

The Lib Dem bruiser, who is 'particularly fond of a good malt', has already raised more than £500 for Go Sober for October.

At the weekend, after enjoying pizza with friends over Diet Coke instead of red wine he declared online: 'At this rate I could get intoxicated on my own smugness!'

But the 48-year-old will have some way to go to out-smug Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, with whom he will now do battle.

Mr Carmichael, who admits his personality can be 'volatile', is seen as a sharp, witty, blunt-speaking figure able to take on Mr Salmond.

Raised in the Western Isles, he graduated from Aberdeen University with a law degree, later becoming a procurator fiscal in the north-east.

As the Lib Dem deputy leader in Scotland he accused the SNP leader of pursuing a 'nationalist witch-hunt' against anyone who opposed independence.

In 2011 he struck up a friendship with Richard Hughes, drummer with piano-rock band Keane while visiting death-row inmates in America.

Mr Carmichael married Kathryn in 1987 and they have two sons, Sandy and Simon.

It comes as Mr Cameron embarks on the so-called 'flat cap reshuffle' of junior ministers, which is expected to see northern and working-class MPs promoted.

Kris Hopkins, the MP for Keighley in West Yorkshire, and Jane Ellison, who grew up in Bradford, are both tipped for ministerial office.

Government whips Karen Bradley and Nicky Morgan are expected to become ministers.

Mr Randall, a central figure in the ‘plebgate’ scandal that forced Andrew Mitchell out of the Cabinet, resigned quit as deputy chief whip.

It came only days after files were given to the Crown Prosecution Service about his former boss, Mr Mitchell. Mr Randall said he had wanted to return to the backbenches since the end of last year.

Mr Randall, 58, has been the Conservative MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip since a 1997 by-election and told the Prime Minister at the end of last year that he wished to step down.

He said it had been 'a great privilege and honour' to serve for 13 years in the Whips' Office in opposition and Government.

The Prime Minister said he 'could not have wished for a more loyal, discreet, patient, trustworthy and committed colleague' and that he 'had rather hoped this day would never come'.

Miss Smith, the 31-year-old constitutional affairs minister and youngest member of the Government, also quit last night.

Her ascent was cut short after she was mauled by Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight while serving as a Treasury minister.

She was sent on to the airwaves to defend a u-turn by George Osborne after he suddenly announced he would scrap a 3p rise in fuel duty, having repeatedly insisted he would not do so.

Her stuttering performance during eight excruciating minutes on live TV was described as car-crash television.

Some observers said there should have been a warning to viewers to avert their eyes if they found blood sports offensive.

Quit: John Randall resigned as deputy chief whip days after 'plebgate' files were given to police
Standing down: Minister Chloe Smith also resigned from the Government last night

Out: Deputy chief whip John Randall and Cabinet Office minister Chloe Smith resigned from the government ahead of the reshuffle

 

During Miss Smith’s ordeal on live television, Paxman repeatedly asked her when she had first found out about the U-turn.

She stumbled and hesitated as she said she would not get into the ‘gory details’ or give a ‘running commentary’, simply saying there had been discussions for some time.

Miss Smith officially ‘resigned’ from the Government but some sources suggest that she was pushed because of a lacklustre performance.

Mr Cameron applauded her 'Positive impact in the departments you have served' and said he looked forward to receiving her recommendations on encouraging young people to vote.

Last week transport minister Simon Burns resigned and announced plans to stand in the election to become deputy speaker of the Commons.

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