Donelan quits as education secretary

The education secretary served in post for less than 48 hours and “pleaded” with Boris Johnson to resign

Michelle Donelan resigned as education secretary this morning [7 July].

Donelan replaced the newly promoted Nadhim Zahawi as education secretary as Boris Johnson reshuffled his cabinet in the wake of several high-profile resignations.

Donelan said she “remain[s] very worried about the prospect of no ministers in the Department for Education as we approach results day” but concluded, after she “pleaded” with the prime minister to resign, that she had to quit.

In a letter announcing her resignation, Donelan wrote, “without a formal mechanism to remove” Boris Johnson from Number 10, mass cabinet resignations were the only way to “force [the prime minister’s] hand”.

Zahawi, education secretary for a little over nine months, moved into number 11 Downing Street on 5 July, taking up the position of chancellor of the Exchequer. He called for Boris Johnson to resign on 7 July.

Donelan, who had been higher and further education minister for over two years and attended cabinet, succeeded her former boss in leading the Department for Education (DfE). There have been seven education secretaries since the Tory party entered government in 2010.

But Donelan, the 38-year-old MP for Chippenham, was confronted by a nearly empty office this morning.

On the morning of 6 July, Will Quince – minister for children and families – and Robin Walker – minister for school standards – walked, citing the prime minister’s handling of the Chris Pincher affair. It means the new education secretary oversees a department with three ministerial vacancies. Both DfE parliamentary private secretaries announced their resignations at noon. By the mid-afternoon, Alex Burghart, the skills minister, resigned.

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