On the evening of Monday 14th July, the Prime Minister invited several of his ministers into Number 10 Downing Street to give them the bad news that they would be leaving his cabinet in the biggest reshuffle since the 2010 general election. Havant MP and Minister for Universities and Science, David Willets, is one of the many people who will not remain in Cameron’s cabinet.
Mr Willets is said to have written to David Cameron last week to announce his intention to stand down from his ministerial post with immediate effect and also declared that he will not stand for re-election in the next general election next May.
The resignation of the 58-year-old follows speculation that Willetts was likely to be sacked by the Prime Minister from his position. Tunbridge Wells MP, Greg Clarke, has taken over Willetts’ ministerial duties while also keeping his role as minister of state for the Cabinet Office, responsible for cities and local growth.
Willets was not the only minister to hand in his resignation in order to save the embarrassment of being forced to give up their ministerial duties. Minister without Portfolio and fifth-longest serving MP ever, Ken Clarke, has also handed in his resignation to the Prime Minister.
The cabinet reshuffle, which takes place less than 300 days before the next general election, has been much larger than many were expecting and has seen some surprising changes. In a shock move, it was announced that the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has been demoted to become Chief Whip. He has been replaced by Treasury minister Nicky Morgan, who will also continue in her role as Minister for Women.
While Cameron has always supported Gove in his job as Education Secretary, the MP’s reforms to education made him highly unpopular with teachers. Last year, the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers called for his resignation after passing no-confidence motions in the Education Secretary.
Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, spoke of the union’s delight that Gove had been relieved of his post: “Michael Gove has clearly lost the support of the profession and parents for justifiable reasons. His vision for education is simply wrong. His pursuit of the unnecessary and often unwanted free schools and academies programme, the use of unqualified teachers, the failure to address the school place crisis and endless ill-thought out reforms to examinations and the curriculum have been his hallmark in office.
“We will be seeking a very early meeting with Nicky Morgan, the incoming Education Secretary, and we look forward to not only a new personality but a more conciliatory approach, one that demonstrates an improvement in policy for children, teachers and young people”.
Morgan’s promotion to the role of Education Secretary is one of many given to women by David Cameron as he tries to endorse more females and young “up and coming” MPs in high profile jobs.
Other changes in the cabinet see former Defence Secretary Philip Hammond replace William Hague as the new Foreign Secretary, and Liz Truss enters the cabinet as Environment Secretary after Owen Patterson was sacked. The Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, has also been replaced by Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Justice, Jeremy Wright.