My thoughts too, Sam. Thank you for putting them down so clearly. As a lukewarm Remainer herself, May clearly had an urgent need to back up her claim that ‘Brexit means Brexit’, in order to appease the staunchest in her party who would have preferred a true Brexiter for their leader.
It’s also worth highlighting that the new Foreign Secretary’s job has been trimmed back, with old hands Fox and Davis, as you say, handling much of the crucial detail and deal-breaking that Boris showed little interest in or aptitude for during his stint as London Figurehead.
Even if some of the breakables have been prudently moved out of Boris’ new office however, the question still presents itself: why appoint the man at all given his history of gaffes and widespread international hostility against him? I agree with your point about keeping enemies close: while Gove has effectively blacklisted himself, Boris as the cheated victim would have provided an obvious rival to May within her party. Anything less than a major appointment would have left Boris a liability —a leader for the true Brexiters to rally around.
I also wonder if May hasn’t rather cunningly thrown Boris to the wolves. Nobody will forget Boris’ ashen-faced reaction to the Leave vote — seen widely as evidence that his whole Leave-pitch was just a cynical bluff aimed at securing his untroubled succession of Cameron, as a ‘true Brexiter’ forced to accept a remain vote. Across Europe Boris was angrily derided for creating a mess he now wouldn’t personally clean up. Similarly, Cameron refused to ‘do the hard shit’, and immediately announced he would have no part in negotiating Brexit. I wonder if now, by handing Boris a job he can’t credibly refuse, May isn’t dumping the shit squarely outside Boris’ door?