DAVID Cameron illustrated his confidence in his most senior party colleagues by reappointing four top Tory ministers to the posts they occupied before Thursday’s dramatic general election as the party swept to power with an overall majority.
George Osborne remained Chancellor of the Exchequer, after five years in the Treasury during the coalition, and was also officially made the most senior Cabinet minister beneath the Prime Minister with the title First Secretary of State - effectively equivalent to deputy PM.
Theresa May and Philip Hammond were reappointed to the other great offices of state, respectively Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary, while Michael Fallon was confirmed as Defence Secretary.
In a sequence of messages on Twitter as the ministers arrived and departed, Mr Cameron said: “I have re-appointed George Osborne as Chancellor of the Exchequer. He will also be First Secretary of State - the ranking Cabinet Minister.
“I am glad to announce that Theresa May will remain as Home Secretary. Philip Hammond will remain as Foreign Secretary. My final appointment tonight is Michael Fallon as Defence Secretary.”
The Chancellor’s “long-term economic plan” was a centrepiece of the election campaign which delivered Conservatives a 12-seat overall majority in the House of Commons and his plans for £30 billion of “consolidation” to eliminate the deficit will be at the heart of the new Government’s agenda.
Meanwhile, Mrs May’s reappointment after a full first term at the Home Office is a mark of her success in a post which is often seen as a graveyard of ministerial ambition, because of the high chances that events beyond their control might bring the Home Secretary down.
Mr Hammond and Mr Fallon have had shorter stints in their ministries, the Foreign Secretary moving from the Ministry of Defence to replace William Hague in July last year, when he was replaced as Defence Secretary by Mr Fallon.
Before Mr Cameron announced his first Cabinet, he paid tribute to Nick Clegg’s work as Deputy Prime Minister and welcomed Ed Miliband’s “typically gracious” concession call earlier today.
Standing in Downing Street in front of the famous black door, Mr Cameron said: “We can make Britain a place where a good life is in reach for everyone who is willing to work and do the right thing.”
The Prime Minister vowed to deliver his entire manifesto, including an in-out referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, now he had a majority government.
He said: “As we conduct this vital work we must ensure we bring our country together.
“As I said in the small hours of this morning, we will govern as a party of one nation, one United Kingdom.
“That means ensuring this recovery reaches all parts of our country from north to south, from east to west.
“And indeed it means rebalancing our economy, building that northern powerhouse. It means giving everyone in our country a chance so no matter where you are from you have the opportunity to make the most of your life.”
Mr Cameron said he had “always believed in governing with respect”, promising to implement further devolution to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
He added: “Governing with respect means ensuring the nations of our United Kingdom have their own governments as well as the United Kingdom government. Both are important.
“And indeed with our plans, the governance of these nations will become powerful with wider responsibilities.”
Mr Cameron concluded: “The real opportunities lie ahead. Everything I have seen over the last five years and, indeed, during this election campaign has proved once again this is a country with unrivalled skills and creativeness. A country with such good humour and such compassion.
“I am convinced that if we draw on all of this then we can take these islands with all our proud history and build an even prouder future.
“Together we can make Great Britain greater still.”
As he travelled back to Conservative HQ to watch the last results come in, Mr Cameron tweeted a picture of himself kissing wife Samantha.
“Here’s to a brighter future for everyone,” he wrote.
A Conservative majority had seemed a distant prospect as polling day dawned yesterday.
But as the Big Ben bell tolled 10pm last night, the exit poll suggested the Tories could be on the brink of an improbable victory - only for Mr Cameron’s party to outperform even those predictions, holding key constituencies and gaining ground in others.
The Tories toppled Labour MPs including shadow chancellor Ed Balls.
And they demolished their former coalition partners, winning many Liberal Democrat seats - including the high- profile scalps of Vince Cable, Ed Davey and David Laws.
Mr Cameron said: “I have been proud to lead the first coalition government in 70 years and I want to thank all those who worked so hard to make it a success.
“In particular, on this day, Nick Clegg. Elections can be bruising clashes of ideas and arguments.
“And a lot of people who believe profoundly in public service have seen that service cut short.”
The Prime Minister added: “Ed Miliband rang me this morning to wish me luck with the new government.
“It was a typically generous gesture from someone who is clearly in public service for all the right reasons.”
John Cridland, CBI director general, said: “Businesses will be relieved that the clouds of uncertainty around the possibility of a hung parliament have dispersed. There will be hurdles to overcome for the new Government though with a slim majority, but it must not duck the tough decisions needed to keep growth striding ahead.
“The Prime Minister must create a pro-enterprise environment, by getting the deficit down, continuing to make the UK one of the most competitive tax environments in the G20, especially for medium-sized businesses, and backing the decision of the Airports Commission.
“With an EU referendum now likely, business will now want to see an ambitious, achievable reform agenda that will make both the UK and Europe more competitive and prosperous for all. The majority of businesses want to stay in a reformed European Union which opens up the world’s largest market of 500 million consumers.
“There have been some major changes in Scotland and now businesses will be looking for reassurance that the devolution proposals agreed by all parties in the draft Scotland Bill will be in the Queen’s Speech.”