'I found it a privilege' - Greening gives first interview since reshuffle

Justine Greening has spoken of the “privilege” of serving as education secretary, a job she has “always wanted to do”, in her first major interview since she left office.

Speaking to the Today Programme on Radio 4 this morning, Greening pledged to become a champion of the Department for Education’s new social mobility strategy on the back benches, and said her decision to turn down another government job stemmed from her passion for “equality of opportunity”, not from disagreements with the prime minister on policy.

Earlier this month, the MP for Putney left the government she had served in since 2010, turning down the role of work and pensions secretary during a two hour discussion with the prime minister in Downing Street.

This morning, Greening said she “didn’t come into politics particularly to have a job in government”, and faced a “pretty big but straightforward choice” when she was called in to Downing Street on January 8.

“Did I take a fourth cabinet role, running a fourth department, or did I carry on focusing on the issue that really drove me into politics and matters to me hugely which is social mobility, equality of opportunity.

“I don’t think it’s acceptable that we live in a country where the place that you’re growing up or maybe your circumstances still so much changes the future that you have ahead of you.”

Greening said she would not “go into the nitty gritty” of her discussions with the prime minister on reshuffle day, but insisted the conversation did not focus on policy differences between the two politicians.

“The conversation was simply around the fact that she wanted me to move into the Department for Work and Pensions, I feel so passionately about social mobility and equality of opportunity, to me that was the overriding thing that I wanted to put my time into.”

Greening spoke of her recently-published social mobility strategy, which she said was “not just about government”, and pledged to champion those policies from the back benches.

“What I’m saying is I can play a huge role in pushing that strategy forward both inside government but also outside government, and that’s what I wanted to put my time into.”