A solid performance and popularity among Conservative supporters did not save South Swindon MP Robert Buckland from the prime minister’s axe.

The sacking of Mr Buckland from his post as Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice was the second announced in the reshuffle which saw several cabinet ministers either fired or moved.

Once he had spoken to PM Boris Johnson, Mr Buckland posted on his social media accounts confirmation: “It has been an honour to serve in government for the last seven years, and as the Lord Chancellor for the last two.

“I am deeply proud of everything I have achieved. I will continue to work hard to support local residents here in South Swindon in my role as MP.”

North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson, who is a minister for disabled people at the Department for Work and Pensions, paid brief tribute on Twitter: “My good friend has been exceptional and leaves with his head held high – he has made a difference and will continue to do so.

But Mr Buckland’s removal was not one which had been widely anticipated.

ITV political editor Robert Peston tweeted: “Very difficult to know why Robert Buckland has been sacked – other than to create a job for Dominic Raab. Buckland is widely seen as having been loyal, hardworking and authoritative as Lord Chancellor.”

It was soon confirmed Raab was to be moved from the Foreign Office but offered Mr Buckland’s job in the justice department – as well as the role of deputy PM.

The first cabinet minister to be fired was Gavin Williamson from education, and Mr Buckland was followed out of the door by housing, communities and local government secretary Robert Jenrick. But whereas both Williamson and Jenrick were towards the bottom of a recent poll of Conservative party members by Conservative Home, Mr

Buckland was near the top. He was eighth in the poll of all 28 cabinet members, with a satisfaction rating of +50.4 – rather higher than the PM at position 21, with a satisfaction rating of 12.9.

The chairman of the House of Commons justice select committee Sir Bob Neill said he thought Mr Buckland had been harshly treated: “I am very sorry indeed to hear this Robert. You did a first rate job and, importantly, always stood up for the rule of law and the integrity of the justice system. You deserved better. Thank you for all you did. You can be proud of it.”

Leader of the Labour group of councillors at the borough council, Jim Grant said the loss of one of the town’s MPs from cabinet might be a blow for Swindon.

Last week Coun Grant raised concerns about central government trying to recoup the money it had given to town halls, including Swindon, for help with soaring Covid-19 related costs. In response the council’s cabinet member for finance Keith Williams said the administration would lobby government and it was an advantage to have two MPs in senior positions in government.

Coun Grant said: “This may make it more difficult for Swindon to get access to the funding it needs to help with its financial crisis.”

Council leader David Renard has been approached for comment.

Mr Buckland’s former special advisor Peter Cardwell said his former boss’s sacking would prove a loss for government.

Mr Cardwell, who was the political advisor to Mr Buckland at the justice department, said: “He’s a great man and a legal expert who will prove a loss to the government. The prime minister is a personal friend of Robert Buckland and he will not have done this lightly.”

Responses to Mr Buckland’s announcement on social media were mixed, but many were supportive. Laura Inglis said: “I think you have done a fantastic job in your cabinet posts. I’m disappointed with this decision.”

Tony Powell gave a somewhat backhanded compliment, saying: “And here I was expecting you to get a promotion. Ah well, you’re better off outside such a bunch of blundering incompetents.”