Rishi Sunak to replace Nadhim Zahawi as Tory party chair ‘in mini-reshuffle’

Rishi Sunak is planning a mini-reshuffle to replace Nadhim Zahawi as Conservative party chair as he tries to reassert his grip over his divided party, according to reports.

The prime minister is also believed to be considering a shake-up of Whitehall by splitting the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy into two or three new departments to better reflect his priorities.

The changes are likely to take place on Tuesday morning, with sources saying the morning cabinet meeting has been moved back to 10.30am.

Sources suggested that there could be a new energy department, with business and trade merged and a separate science and digital department too, with responsibilities removed from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. However, the Guardian understands that cabinet ministers whose departments are affected do not appear to have been pre-warned.

Government insiders suggested that Grant Shapps, the business secretary, could be moved to Tory party chair – a role he first held between 2012 and 2015 – but other reports say that the trade minister Greg Hands could get the role.

Sunak has struggled to move on from standards rows that have overshadowed his attempts to establish a clean break from the Boris Johnson and Liz Truss eras. The political future of Dominic Raab, his deputy prime minister, is in question amid multiple bullying allegations.

It follows the sacking of Zahawi as party chair after multiple breaches of the ministerial code for failing to declare details of his tax affairs.

A source told the Sun: “The focus is making government work better but in reality it leaves senior ministers looking over their shoulder and leaves big question over the future of Raab, who faces a bullying inquiry.”

A Downing Street spokesperson declined to comment.

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