May reshuffle branded a farce by Osborne
A government reshuffle by Theresa May was dismissed even by some of her allies as a failure that one said left her attempt to reassert her authority in "smoke and wreckage".
George Osborne, sacked by May when she came to power in July 2016, led the criticism, calling the moves a "farce".
But other more loyal members of her governing Conservatives also questioned the prime minister's ability to put the party back on track for election success after a year of scandals, gaffes and divisions over Brexit.
A cabinet reshuffle is meant to offer a chance for a leader to assert authority on a team she had hoped the limited changes would not only re-energise her domestic agenda but also strengthen her hand in talks to leave the European Union.
Instead, it did little more than demonstrate May's weakness, with the only high-profile moves derailed when one minister quit rather than take a new job and another talked May out of changing his role.
The PM said her reshuffle helped the government look "more like the country it serves".
"It allows a new generation of gifted ministers to step up and make life better for people across the whole UK," she said in a statement.
But for Osborne, it was simply a "farce".
"You have to hand it to this prime minister: she's given us the hat-trick of the worst reshuffle, the worst party conference speech and the worst manifesto in modern history," the former finance minister wrote in his newspaper, London's Evening Standard.
"If they were not facing one of the worst oppositions we’ve ever had, the Tories would be finished."
But while his criticism was to be expected, even loyal lawmakers and commentators asked why the prime minister had launched a reshuffle from a weakened position, unable to force her will.
"She should not have been in the position of having to plead with a minister whose talents she needs, faced with a choice of giving in or sacking him," the Conservativehome website, which airs the views of the party, wrote in an editorial.
But, it added, in the "smoke and wreckage this morning, there are a few points of hope and lightPublished: by Radio NewsHub