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Education Secretary Michelle Donelan quits after just one full day in the role

A chaotic week which has seen resignations of the Prime Minister and Government ministers with responsibilities for children’s and adults’ social care have sparked concern over the enactment of reforms.

06/07/22

Education Secretary Michelle Donelan quits after just one full day in the role

Boris Johnson announced that he will resign as Prime Minister to the nation this afternoon, after a string of resignations from senior members of his Government.

Johnson vowed to stay on as caretaker Prime Minister until a new leader is elected, but many in Westminster question whether this is appropriate or possible given the seeming inability of the Conservative leader to fill the many Government positions still vacant.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Secretary of State for Health Sajid Javid were the first to declare that they could no longer support the Prime Minister, handing in their resignations over Johnson’s handling of the Chris Pincher groping allegations.

“Given the unprecedented scale of the challenges in health and social care, it has been my instinct to continue focusing on this important work. So it is with enormous regret that I must tell you that I can no longer, in good conscience, continue serving in this Government, I am instinctively a team player but the British people also rightly expect integrity from their Government,” the Health Secretary wrote in his letter.

The resignation means that Sajid Javid is the first MP to resign twice from the same Government on principle.

“The tone you set as leader, and the values you represent, reflect on your colleagues, your party, and ultimately the country,” Javid continued in his resignation letter. “We may not always have been popular, but we have been competent in acting in the national interest. Sadly, in the current circumstances, the public are concluding that we are neither.”

Javid was replaced as Health Secretary by Steve Barclay, who was previously Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Chief of Staff in Downing Street. Nadhim Zahawi, who was Secretary of State for Education, replaced Sunak as Chancellor of the Exchequer, before withdrawing his support for the Prime Minister on Friday morning.

Michelle Donelan, taking over from Zahawi at the top of the Department for Education, lasted just one full day in the role before withdrawing his support for the PM this morning.

Replying to the Prime Minister’s Twitter announcement that Donelan would be taking over as Education Secretary, fellow Conservative MP Lucy Allan was scathing in a blunt response, commenting only: “Seriously”.

In a last-ditch attempt to hang on as caretaker Prime Minister, Johnson announced appointments to replace ministers with James Cleverly declared as Education Secretary.

Additional resignations at the DfE, including from Children’s Minister Will Quince and Schools Minister Robin Walker, will mean wholesale changes in the Department for Education as many positions remain unfilled.

Quince – who had responsibility for children’s social care, adoption and care leavers – resigned after defending the Prime Minister to broadcast journalists less than two days ago. Quince said Downing Street staff “categorically” assured him the Prime Minister “did not know of any specific complaints” about Chris Pincher before promoting him to Deputy Chief Whip – something we now know to be untrue.

“Thank you for meeting with me yesterday evening and for your sincere apology regarding the briefings I received from No 10 ahead of Monday’s media round, which we now know to be inaccurate,” Quince wrote in his resignation letter. “It is with great sadness and regret that I have no choice but to tender my resignation as Minister for Children and Families as I accepted and repeated those assurances in good faith.”

The raft of resignations has caused concern for some over the implementation of recent Government commitments to reforms in policies across children’s and adults’ social care.

Responding to the Children’s Minister’s resignation on Twitter, Chair of the recent Review of Children’s Social Care Josh MacAlister said: “Thank you for your support for the @reviewCSC, Will. You've been incredibly engaged in the process since day one. Good luck with what comes next.”

“There’s been too much churn in children’s ministers in recent years (7 in 7 years). It's essential that new DfE ministers make implementation of reforms for children, families and care experienced people a top priority in the months ahead. We cannot afford drift or delay.”

The resignations come after Conservative MP Chris Pincher resigned his post last week after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced. The Tamworth MP denies the allegations; however, he has previously faced similar accusations.

Critics of Boris Johnson said he did not act quickly enough in sacking the Deputy Chief Whip. Downing Street and many ministers initially denied that Boris Johnson was aware of any specific complaints against Pincher before appointing him, however former top civil servant Lord McDonald later revealed that the Prime Minister was briefed "in person" about a "formal complaint" into Mr Pincher's conduct in 2019.

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