The reshuffle gives Mr. Johnson the chance to reshape the top echelons of his government ahead of a party conference next month at which he will try to provide a clearer post-Covid policy agenda. But with coronavirus case numbers still high, the government is also bracing for the possibility of a surge in hospitalizations in the fall and winter.
On Tuesday, Mr. Johnson laid out his plans for combating the virus as the winter approaches, saying Britain would offer vaccine booster shots to people aged 50 and over, and first shots to children of ages 12 to 15. His government is determined to avoid a further lockdown but could resort to measures like mask mandates if infections surge.
After a successful beginning to Britain’s vaccine program earlier this year, Mr. Johnson’s Conservatives surged in the opinion polls, but that lead now appears to be evaporating. Last week Mr. Johnson took a gamble by breaking an election promise not to raise taxes so that he could allocate more cash to health and social care.
His critics have also complained of a lack of clarity over the government’s main domestic promise of “leveling up,” meaning delivering prosperity to economically deprived regions.
As education secretary, Mr. Williamson had faced fierce criticism for presiding over a crisis in schools examination results last year. Mr. Jenrick, as housing secretary, faced criticism after approving a property project involving a Conservative Party donor, and was in charge of a proposed loosening of house-building restrictions in England that was unpopular among some Conservative lawmakers. Mr. Buckland’s tenure was much smoother but his departure frees up a position in the cabinet for other moves.