Schools minister Robin Walker has resigned from his post, saying he cannot “in good conscience” serve in prime minister Boris Johnson’s government.
It comes after children’s minister Will Quince handed in his resignation this morning, leaving DfE with three ministerial vacancies. Michelle Donelan was promoted from universities minister to education secretary, after Nadhim Zahawi landed the chancellor gig.
David Johnston has also resigned as parliamentary private secretary to the DfE ministerial team, saying he “cannot defend what has taken place these past few days – or indeed these past few months”.
Robert Halfon, chair of the education select committee, also said he has “lost confidence” in Johnson.
In Walker’s letter of resignation he said: “I have always believed it is the job of our party to strike the right balance between efficiency and compassion, but the image being projected from the struggles of the last few months is that we risk achieving neither.
“You won the confidence of your colleagues just a few weeks ago but the events and revelations have since undermined this.
“I have publicly supported you as leader of our party and prime minister but I am afraid I feel I can do so no longer, and although I cannot think of a more rewarding job than the one I have been doing, I cannot in good conscience continue to serve in your government.”
Minister says achievements ‘overshadowed’
Walker added the government’s “great achievements” on Brexit, protecting livelihoods during Covid and supporting the union have become “overshadowed by mistakes and questions about integrity”.
But he said it had been a “great honour” serving as a minister.
Halfon said in his letter to the prime minister this morning he was previously against any leadership change because it would “months of political wrangling, during Covid, a cost of living crisis and the war in Ukraine”.
But he said the public had been “misled about the appointment of the former deputy chief whip”.
“The parties at Number 10 Downing Street were bad enough, but the appointment of this individual and the untruthful statements about what was known, is unacceptable to me.”
Halfon added he was a “naturally loyal Conservative”, despite constantly challenging the government on education and the cost of living – but he had never come out against a party leader before.
‘A real loss of integrity’
“Not only has there been a real loss of integrity, but a failure of policy. By 2025, education spending will have increased by just 3 per cent compared to a 40 per cent increase for the NHS. The post covid catch-up programme for children is not firing on all cylinders as it should and 1.7 million children are still absent from school.”
Johnston was working as a PPS, which involves acting as the “eyes and ears” of ministers in the House of Commons.
He announced today he had resigned, citing Johnson’s leadership.
“As most of you will know, education is a great passion of mine and I very much enjoyed working with Nadhim Zahawi and the ministerial team, but I cannot defend what has taken place these past few days – or indeed these past few months.
“I know from my inbox that there are different views about the prime minister, but I do not believe he can provide the leadership the country needs. I hope those who disagree with this nonetheless understand why I have taken the decision I have.”