How many Cabinet ministers are there and what does it mean when an MP resigns?

We answer the questions of how many cabinet ministers are there and what does it mean when an MP resigns.

Cabinet members pictured having a meeting, including Rishi Sunak, who has now resigned
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Following the influx of resignations from MPs in Boris Johnson's government, many are asking how many Cabinet ministers are there and what does it mean when an MP resigns?

It's been a tough few days for Boris Johnson, who's seen a increasing number of ministers resigning (opens in new tab) after criticism of his handling of allegations against deputy chief whip, Chris Pincher. The resignations have thrown the Government into uncertain times, with many wondering whether Boris will resign (opens in new tab) or even if the Queen can sack him (opens in new tab).

But some things will remain constant, and that's the number of MPs in the Cabinet and what happens when government members resign. Read on to find out everything you need to know about the hiring and firing process.

How many Cabinet ministers are there?

There are currently 21 ministers in the Cabinet. These members are chosen by the Prime Minister to be senior ministers in government, which means they lead specific policy areas such as health, education, foreign affairs and transport. 

For example, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was responsible for announcing the rules on international travel (opens in new tab) from the UK following the lifting of Covid restrictions.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps pictured leaving No. 10

(Image credit: Getty Images)

You might have heard the term 'reshuffle', which is used when the PM moves government ministers to different posts. This often involves dismissing some from the cabinet completely and bringing in new faces. 

The most recent reshuffle, which took place in September 2021, saw Robert Buckland sacked as Justice Secretary and replaced by Dominic Raab. Raab said on Twitter (opens in new tab) that he was 'delighted' to be taking on the role and added that he would be "delivering on the PM’s commitment to cut crime, reduce reoffending and protect the public."

Who is in the Cabinet?

  • Boris Johnson - Prime Minister
  • Dominic Raab - Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice
  • Nadhim Zahawi - Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • Liz Truss (opens in new tab) - Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs
  • Priti Patel - Secretary of State for the Home Department
  • Steve Barclay - Health Secretary
  • James Cleverly - Education Secretary 
  • Ben Wallace - Secretary of State for Defence
  • Greg Clark - Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
  • Kwasi Kwarteng - Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
  • Anne-Marie Trevelyan - Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade
  • Thérèse Coffey - Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
  • George Eustice - Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
  • Grant Shapps - Secretary of State for Transport
  • Shailesh Vara - Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
  • Alister Jack - Secretary of State for Scotland
  • Sir Robert Buckland - Secretary of State for Wales
  • Nadine Dorries - Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
  • Jacob Rees-Mogg - Minister of State (Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency)
  • Baroness Evans of Bowes Park - Leader of the House of Lords, Lord Privy Seal
  • Alok Sharma - COP26 President

What does it mean when an MP resigns?

When an MP resigns from government they become a backbencher. This means that they continue to serve in Parliament as an MP, but no longer have a role in the Government. They are called backbenchers because they sit on the back rows in the House of Commons.

The Government is in charge of running the country, which enables it to introduce policies such as the living support package (opens in new tab) and the council tax rebate (opens in new tab). While Parliament's roles are to vote to pass laws - which are normally suggested by the Government - and question government decisions. MPs can question the Prime Minister by standing up at PMQs (opens in new tab) in the hopes of being chosen to speak.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who chairs the cabinet, pictured leaving Downing Street

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How many Tory MPs are there?

There are currently 358 Conservative MPs. The total number of MPs in Parliament is 650, giving the Tory party a majority of 73. After the most recent election, which took place in 2019, Boris Johnson's Conservative party won 364 seats. 

This large majority was helped by the party taking over many Labour strongholds, such as Blyth Valley in Northumberland, which until then had never elected a Conservative candidate in its 69-year history. 

However, in years since the Tories have lost a number of seats to other parties. In December 2021, the party lost North Shropshire to the Liberal Democrats, after Owen Paterson resigned due to breaching rules on lobbying. 

In June 2022, the Conservatives lost their seat in Wakefield to Labour and in Tiverton and Honiton to the Liberal Democrats. These two losses resulted in the resignation of Conservative part chair, saying in his letter: “Our supporters are distressed and disappointed by recent events, and I share their feelings.

“We cannot carry on with business as usual. Somebody must take responsibility and I have concluded that, in these circumstances, it would not be right for me to remain in office.”

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Ellie Hutchings
Ellie Hutchings

Ellie joined Goodto as a Junior Features Writer in 2022 after finishing her Master’s in Magazine Journalism at Nottingham Trent University. Previously, she completed successful work experience placements with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue and the Nottingham Post, and freelanced as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. In 2021, Ellie graduated from Cardiff University with a first-class degree in Journalism.