Belfast Telegraph

Justine Greening quits Cabinet after losing education post in May's reshuffle

Former education secretary Justine Greening's dramatic departure from Government has stood out in an otherwise highly cautious Cabinet reshuffle.

Ms Greening quit following a refusal to be switched to the Department for Work and Pensions after fighting her corner in Downing Street for two hours.

In what had been billed as a chance to reset and refresh the Government, Prime Minister Theresa May left all senior Cabinet ministers in place and failed to move a swathe of middle-ranking members who had been widely reported to be facing the axe.

Ms Greening, who could now become a backbench thorn in the Prime Minister's side on Brexit, was succeeded as Education Secretary by Damian Hinds.

The job Ms Greening turned down, Work and Pensions Secretary, was given instead to Esther McVey, who triggered controversy when she was a junior minister in the department under David Cameron.

The Cabinet "big four" of Chancellor Philip Hammond, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Brexit Secretary David Davis all stayed in place.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, Business Secretary Greg Clark and Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom also kept their jobs, despite widespread speculation that Mrs May would demote them.

Former justice secretary David Lidington was appointed minister for the Cabinet Office, but was not awarded the title of First Secretary of State enjoyed by his predecessor Damian Green.

It was Mr Green's resignation after he admitted lying over pornography on his office computer that prompted the reshuffle.

Mr Lidington will fill in for Mrs May at Prime Minister's Questions and take on some of the responsibilities for chairing influential Cabinet committees, including some relating to Brexit.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire resigned from the Cabinet on grounds of ill health, weeks before major surgery for a lesion on his right lung.

Mr Lidington was also named Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, replacing Sir Patrick McLoughlin, who was sacked as Conservative chairman following criticism of his role in the party's poor performance in last year's snap election.

Brandon Lewis has been named the new party chairman, amid farcical scenes which saw the Tories' official Twitter account incorrectly announce that the job had gone to Mr Grayling.

And in an embarrassing twist to a reshuffle beset with social media mistakes, Jeremy Hunt, who was kept on as Health Secretary with an extended social care role - amid reports he turned down the post of Business Secretary - was forced to explain why he had "liked" a tweet stating Ms Greening had left the Government.

Mr Hunt tweeted: "Like button pressed by accident. Justine was an excellent minister and will be a great loss to govt."

After quitting the Government, Ms Greening tweeted: " Social mobility matters to me & our country more than my ministerial career. I'll continue to do everything I can to create a country that has equality of opportunity for young people & I'll keep working hard as MP for Putney."

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson tweeted: "Sorry to see @JustineGreening leave government - she brought her non-nonsense, northern accountant's eye to every brief and is a real role model for LGBT+ Conservatives."

Former chancellor George Osborne praised Ms Greening's abilities as he branded the reshuffle "unusual".

Sajid Javid had his responsibility for housing added to his Cabinet title in a sign of the issue's increasing political importance.

Gavin Williamson retained his role as Defence Secretary, which he has held for just over two months.

Former work and pensions secretary David Gauke took over the roles of Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary vacated by Mr Lidington.

Ex-culture secretary Karen Bradley was moved to the politically sensitive Northern Ireland role vacated by Mr Brokenshire.

Digital minister Matt Hancock took over from his old boss as Culture Secretary.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove, International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox all remain in the same jobs.

Jeremy Corbyn told a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party that the reshuffle was a "pointless and lacklustre" PR stunt.

He said: "In 2018, the impact of Tory austerity is hitting home with the public, most tragically with the most serious NHS winter crisis yet.

"And yet the Government's big plan for the new year is to dodge the real issues and reshuffle the pack in a pointless and lacklustre PR exercise.

"It's simply not good enough. You can't make up for nearly eight years of failure by changing the name of a department."

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