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Braintree MP James Cleverly handed promotion in cabinet reshuffle

PUBLISHED: 13:30 08 January 2018 | UPDATED: 11:31 09 January 2018

Braintree MP James Cleverly has been appointed deputy chairman of the Conservative Party. Picture: STEFAN ROUSSEAU/PA WIRE

Braintree MP James Cleverly has been appointed deputy chairman of the Conservative Party. Picture: STEFAN ROUSSEAU/PA WIRE

The MP for Braintree has been given a promotion by Prime Minister Theresa May in her cabinet reshuffle.

It has been revealed that James Cleverly, who was elected in 2015, has been appointed as deputy chairman of the Conservative Party.

The politician was seen entering Number 10 earlier today, fuelling speculation that he may land a senior role - marking a rapid promotion from the backbenches.

He will serve as deputy to the newly-appointed chairman of the Conservative Party, Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis, who will take over from Sir Patrick McLoughlin.

Mr Lewis will also take on the role of minister without portfolio.

Perhaps to prove the point that a new party chairman was needed, the Tories initially sent a tweet out congratulating Chris Grayling as the new chairman before quickly deleting it.

Mr Lewis has long been tipped for the role after what many saw as a chaotic party conference in the autumn in Manchester and a disastrous general election in the summer.

This is a significant promotion for Mr Lewis to a cabinet-level post after three-and-a-half years in lower-ranking ministerial jobs including immigration.

A tweet on the official @conservatives channel congratulating Mr Grayling on the appointment was deleted within moments of being sent, but not before it had been shared by a number of Tory MPs and reported on TV.

Theresa May’s first major reshuffle since taking office in 2016 was also marked by the unexpected departure of Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire, who quit the government on grounds of ill-health weeks ahead of major surgery for a small lesion to his right lung.

Confirming he was leaving Mrs May’s top team after almost two years as party chairman, Sir Patrick – who was blamed by many Tories for the party’s poor showing in last year’s snap election - told Sky News: “I’ve been in the Cabinet eight years. I have had a very good run and I enjoyed it immensely.”

The appointment of Mr Lewis as Sir Patrick’s replacement and minister without portfolio was initially overshadowed by the mistaken announcement that Mr Grayling was being moved from Transport Secretary to Conservative chairman.

A Tory source said that CCHQ political director Iain Carter sent the image appearing to confirm Mr Grayling’s appointment as chairman to a majority of the party’s MPs in a WhatsApp message, before deleting it and saying it was sent in error.

In a major shake-up of CCHQ, the Conservatives also announced junior minister Chris Skidmore as vice chairman for policy, Maria Caulfield as vice chair for women, and 2017 intake Saffron Walden MP Kemi Badenoch and Ben Bradley as vice chair for candidates and vice chair for youth respectively.

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