Key Cabinet Members Chosen By Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May The Cabinet member who is best known in the U.S. is Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London, and a leader of the campaign to withdraw Britain from the European Union. He's the new foreign secretary.
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Key Cabinet Members Chosen By Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May

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Key Cabinet Members Chosen By Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May

Key Cabinet Members Chosen By Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May

Key Cabinet Members Chosen By Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/485982244/485982245" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The Cabinet member who is best known in the U.S. is Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London, and a leader of the campaign to withdraw Britain from the European Union. He's the new foreign secretary.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Theresa May, the United Kingdom's new prime minister, took office yesterday, bringing needed stability to the country after a period of political chaos. May is naming her cabinet with a mix of talent. And there is one surprise that hints at the tricky political landscape she faces. NPR's Frank Langfitt has been following the story from London. Good morning.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Let's start with the basic - and maybe unsurprising - people who are now in her cabinet.

LANGFITT: Sure. A hardcore Euroskeptic guy, a guy named David Davis - he's going to be in charge of negotiating leaving the European Union - obviously, a huge job and difficult job. Amber Rudd - she's a former energy minister. She's going to take over as home secretary, overseeing police and immigration. But the important thing there, I think, is May had pledged to bring more women into the cabinet. She seems to be doing that.

Big news today, though, that has everybody talking in London is the former London mayor Boris Johnson. He's the new foreign secretary. That's like the British equivalent of the secretary of state.

MONTAGNE: And there are many reasons why people would be talking about that. To start with, Johnson campaigned hard for the U.K. to leave the EU and then he decided at the last moment not to run for prime minister. And some in the U.K. say he created a mess with Brexit and was walking away. I mean, that's one thing, but there are many more.

LANGFITT: There were many more. But I just want to describe the reactions today. And certainly on the internet, it's a mixture of people being stunned, angry, bemused. This is a guy who seemed politically dead not very long ago. He was going to run for prime minister, looked like he was going to become prime minister. His key supporter actually cut him off at the knees publicly right before then, and he had to drop out.

And so one of the things, though - one of the questions is - why would he be in this cabinet? And the reason is Theresa May needs Brexiteers in her cabinet because she actually supported staying in the EU. And, of course, the Brexit vote won. So she needs to sort of unify her party and also, you know, make a nod to the voters who voted to leave the European Union.

MONTAGNE: And also with Boris Johnson, he is famous for being flamboyant, but not just that, for saying really shocking things.

LANGFITT: Yeah, it's a very strange choice for your top diplomat. Let me read you a couple of quotes. In 2007, he compared Hillary Clinton to, quote, "a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital." He also said of President Obama that he seemed anti-colonial - that was the reason he didn't like Britain - because of his, quote, "part-Kenyan ancestry," again talking about Kenya, which is a former British colony. So he's very blunt spoken, very flamboyant. And most people here just think the idea of him as foreign secretary just seems a little crazy.

MONTAGNE: Well, that's NPR's Frank Langfitt speaking to us from London. Thanks very much.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, Renee.

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