Today, Rishi Sunak finally succeeded Nadhim Zahawi as Tory chairman, replacing ham with a Boris Johnson detractor and Remainer.
More than a week after Zahawi was fired due to his family tax issues, Greg Hands resigned from his position as Minister of Trade Policy to take up the position.
It’s understood that Mr. Sunak had difficulty finding a candidate for the position, therefore some may question his decision to put Mr. Hands in a position that connects the Government with the party faithful.
The 57-year-old father of two, who is fluent in five languages, including Czech and German, has served as a minister under each prime minister since David Cameron and has been a London MP since 2005.
But in 2016, he was also a key figure in the capital’s Remain movement. He recently had a disagreement with Boris Johnson on the third runway that is being considered for Heathrow.
In 2018, Mr. Johnson, the then-foreign secretary and another opponent of the proposal, travelled to Afghanistan in order to dodge the vote and avoiding having to quit. Mr. Hands resigned as a minister in order to oppose the air hub development in a Commons vote.
To the time, Mr. Hands, a supporter of Plymouth Argyle who had just returned from a pilgrimage at a monastery in Romania, made fun of Mr. Johnson on Twitter. Great to return to the UK in time for the game today at Luton Airport and to vote against Heathrow expansion tomorrow, he said. “I wouldn’t want to be away for any of them.”
Whitehall has also seen a radical reorganization under Mr. Sunak, with Grant Shapps’ Business Department merging with Trade and Kemi Badenoch becoming the helm.
Mr. Shapps’ position will be transferred to a new Energy Security division.
A new “Science, Innovation, and Technology” ministry will be established, taking over the Culture Department’s present duties for digital concerns. Michelle Donelan will be in charge of it.
In Ms. Donelan’s former Culture brief, Mr. Hands and Ms. Frazer enter the Cabinet.
The future of Deputy PM Dominic Raab, who is under investigation for allegations of bullying, is not expected to be impacted by the reorganization.
Conservatives, on the other hand, have been expressing confusion about the ‘bizarre’ choice to try to overhaul the ‘back end’ of government only a year before the projected election date.
One dubbed it “deckchair day,” a play on the proverb about chairs sliding on the Titanic as it sunk.
Mr. Hands was reared in the US up to the age of seven after being born in New York. Then, his family returned to the UK. He continues to have dual US-UK citizenship.
He attended public schools, although according to his Tory biography, his family “was continually on the move owing to the Labour Government of 1974–1979 shutting down grammar schools.” He was educated in public schools.
Before going to Cambridge, he worked a gap year in West Berlin at a McDonald’s and a swimming pool. Eight years as a banker and a stint as a councillor in Hammersmith and Fulham were followed by a first in contemporary history.
In 2005, he defeated Labour and won the Hammersmith and Fulham parliamentary district with a margin of more than 5,000 votes. When he won the newly created Chelsea and Fulham constituency in the 2010 election, the seat was abolished.
In opposition, he served as a shadow minister for the Treasury before rising to the post of whip and then Chief Secretary of the Treasury under Cameron in 2015. After Theresa May was elected as prime minister the next year, he was reassigned to trade, but he quit over Heathrow in 2018. Since that time, he has served as trade minister under Mr. Sunak, Liz Truss, and Boris Johnson.
He also oversaw Shaun Bailey’s mayoral campaign in London, which Bailey lost to Sadiq Khan handily in 2021.
He is also known for making some unconventional tweets, such as one in which he commended Tesco for fixing the price of their Meal Deal for five years.
His German-born wife, Irina Hundt, and he discussed the effects of the Brexit vote on their family in 2018.
He told HuffPost, “My wife is German, my kids are multilingual, and on the referendum day or the day after, my son, who was nine at the time, grieved over the decision.”
He wasn’t exactly sure what that meant. He could have believed that his parents would now have to divorce.
More recently, when Akshata Murty faced scrutiny over her non-dom tax status, he demonstrated his commitment to Mr. Sunak. He told the BBC that some of the remark about her being a foreign national had been harsh, raising the possibility that there could be a racial component to the criticism.
He has lately been under fire from China for a commercial visit to Taiwan.
After he visited Taipei in November and became the most recent foreign official to ignore Beijing’s warnings over connections with the island, Beijing warned the UK must “stop sending the incorrect signals.”
Taiwan is allegedly part of China, which has threatened to take it with force. Additionally, it tries to diplomatically isolate China by enforcing its “one-China” concept against nations with whom it has official ties.
Zhao Lijian, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, said at a daily briefing that the U.K. should “really respect China’s sovereignty, preserve the one-China concept, halt any formal ties with Taiwan, and stop giving the incorrect signals to Taiwan independence separatist groups.”