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LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson demoted his foreign secretary on Wednesday in a major reshuffle, removing his more under-fire colleagues to refocus the government on raising living standards after COVID-19.

After months of criticism of several of his top team for missteps and gaffes, Johnson finally started a process some say he wanted to do many weeks earlier, to make the changes he feels he needs to press on with his “levelling up” agenda.

Johnson has made tackling regional inequality a priority, part of an agenda set in 2019 when he won the biggest Conservative Party parliamentary majority since Margaret Thatcher but which has been eclipsed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

No vaccine passports: UK PM to set out winter Covid-19 plan

“We know the public also want us to deliver on their priorities, and that’s why the prime minister wants to ensure we have the right team in place for that,” Johnson’s spokesman told reporters. A source in Johnson’s office said the British leader would be appointing ministers “with a focus on uniting and levelling up the whole country”.

Raab, who has faced calls to resign since he went on holiday in Crete as the Taliban advanced on the Afghan capital, Kabul, lost one of the so-called great offices of state in the foreign office to become justice minister. To soften the blow, Raab was also appointed deputy prime minister, a role he played in all but name when he stepped in to lead government when Johnson was fighting for his life in hospital with COVID last year.

Liz Truss was promoted from trade to the foreign office, becoming only the second woman to hold the position in Britain. Michael Gove, seen as a key player in the Johnson government, was moved to housing from his position in the cabinet office, a department at the centre of government which drives the implementation of policy.

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