Alok Sharma – new decade, new Business Secretary, new direction?

Yesterday’s Cabinet reshuffle turned out to be perhaps less straightforward than Boris Johnson might have anticipated.

BEIS
Sharma replaces Andrea Leadsom in the role of Business Secretary, who was among the early casualties of the PM’s Cabinet reshuffle

Westminster was alive with controversy as revelations from inside government continued to pour in over the wires.

Not least was the decision by Sajid Javid to resign as Chancellor of the Exchequer after he refused the Prime Minister’s instruction to sack his own team of advisers.

Javid said “no self-respecting minister” could accept such a condition.

And his resignation is especially poignant as he was due to deliver his first Budget on 11 March 2020.

Javid has been replaced by Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rishi Sunak, who was previously a junior housing minister.

Next up, and perhaps more critical to British manufacturers, was the appointment of Alok Sharma as Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and as president of COP26, the UN climate summit, in Glasgow this coming November.

Sharma replaces Andrea Leadsom in the role of Business Secretary, who was among the early casualties of the PM’s Cabinet reshuffle.

Leadsom, who was one of two who challenged Johnson for the premiership last summer, had been in the BEIS department for just six months. She said it had been a “privilege”.



But who is Alok Sharma and what might his appointment to Business Secretary mean for UK manufacturing?

At this stage it’s rather hard to tell. But what we do know is he was previously the Secretary of State for International Development, a role he assumed in July last year when Rory Stewart resigned.

DfID is a government department responsible for administering overseas aid.

Heading up COP26 will bring certain pressures for Sharma. This year’s summit marks a step-change in action by countries around the world that will be in attendance, as its representatives are expected to bring forward enhanced strategies for tackling global CO2 emissions.

Currently, the UK has a target to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

India-born Sharma moved to Reading at the age of five with his parents.

He trained as a chartered accountant with Deloitte Haskins & Sells in Manchester, before switching to corporate finance.

He worked at Nikko Securities and later Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken and has been an adviser in both the corporate and private equity sector, specialising in cross-border M&A and restructurings.

He also served as a chairman of the economic affairs committee at the political think tank, Bow Group.

He was elected as the Conservative Member of Parliament for Reading West in 2010 and is a governor of a primary school in the town.

Before DfID, Sharma had been Minister of State for Employment and before that for Housing.

On Brexit, Sharma was supportive of the UK remaining inside the European Union before the 2016 referendum, but then supported the withdrawal agreements of Theresa May and Boris Johnson.

*Image courtesy of Shutterstock