Attorney General Jeremy Wright has replaced Matt Hancock as culture secretary in the cabinet reshuffle following Jeremy Hunt’s promotion to foreign secretary.
Theresa May was forced to make changes to the cabinet after Eurosceptics Boris Johnson and David Davis resigned on Monday (9th July) in protest at the government’s new Brexit strategy.
In total six ministers have been appointed to new roles in the cabinet: longtime health secretary Hunt has replaced Johnson as foreign secretary while Dominic Raab has taken over Davis’ Brexit brief. Hancock has taken on the health and social care brief while Wright, Attorney General since 2014, has moved into the position of minister for the department for culture, media, sport and digital (DCMS). He has been replaced by backbencher Geoffrey Cox and Kit Malthouse has taken on Raab’s role as minister for housing.
Hancock was appointed as culture secretary only six months ago in January, having replaced Karen Bradley who is now Northern Ireland secretary.
Former barrister Wright was first elected to the Commons in 2005 in the same Conservative intake as Hunt and Michael Gove but according to the Times, “his rise has been slower and more low-key”. While he has held roles in government since 2010 such as junior whip and then junior minister for prisons at the Ministry of Justice, he has mostly been out of the public eye.
Wright attracted controversy in March 2014 for his role in defending the prison book ban when former justice secretary Chris Grayling banned sending books to prisoners. At the time Wright described this as “sensible security precautions” to prevent drugs being sent in. He said that friends and families should send money to prisoners so they could buy books instead. The ban was ruled unlawful nine months later and was scrapped by Grayling’s replacement, Gove, in January 2015.
Following Wright’s junior minister for prisons role he replaced Dominic Grieve as attorney-general in which capacity he has attended cabinet ever since. He backed Remain in the 2016 referendum.
Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns for prison reform charity the Howard League for Penal Reform, revealed frustration at the appointment. He tweeted: “Wow. Jeremy Wright is the new Culture Secretary. The man who defended the #BooksForPrisoners ban as prisons minister under Grayling.”
Shadow culture secretary Tom Watson tweeted: “Congratulations to Jeremy Wright, my third Secretary of State at DCMS who is in charge on Culture, Media, Sport and Digital. I can’t find him on the digital medium of Twitter but I’m sure that’s just an oversight.”
Stephen Lotinga, c.e.o. of the Publishers Association, told The Bookseller: “We’d like to welcome the Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC MP to his new role as secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and sport and we very much look forward to working with him in the future.
"It’s a crucial time for publishing and the creative industries more broadly, as we are currently facing a range of issues that are vitally important to the future health of our sector – including copyright, VAT on digital and Open Access.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport told The Bookseller it was not making any formal comment about the changes.