Michelle Donelan appointed as new culture secretary

The Chippenham MP who replaces Nadine Dorries has limited experience of working with the creative industries.

The new Prime Minister Liz Truss has appointed Chippenham MP Michelle Donelan as the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport. This makes her the eleventh culture secretary in as many years.

After backing Truss throughout the conservative leadership campaign, Donelan was appointed to the Prime Minister’s first cabinet with several high-profile positions also being filled by Truss loyalists. Those appointed into senior roles include Kwasi Kwarteng as chancellor of the exchequer and Suella Braverman as home secretary.

Former culture secretary Nadine Dorries was one of several ministers who resigned from their positions prior to Boris Johnson’s official resignation, despite being asked to stay in the role. She tweeted: “I am humbled that Liz Truss extended her confidence in me by asking me to remain as Secretary of State for DCMS. I will always show her the same loyalty and support I have to @BorisJohnson.”

Dorries served in the position for little under a year, in which she received criticism for freezing the BBC’s funding for two years and proposing the privatisation of Channel 4. She will now serve as a backbencher.

Who is Michelle Donelan?

Donelan was born in Cheshire and studied history and politics at the University of York. Before politics, her career has began in marketing, including roles at Marie Claire magazine and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

She was first elected into the House of Commons in 2015, representing Chippenham and was subsequently re-elected in the 2017 and 2019 elections. Her first government role came in 2020 as Minister of State for Higher and Further Education (formerly known as Minister of State for Universities). The renaming of the role meant she had the right to attend cabinet meetings.

Donelan made several changes to how students would pay back their university fees and strongly supported a huge investment in STEM subjects. It was during her tenure that funding for arts subjects at universities was cut, though she has never spoken on the matter.

She remained as Minister of State for Higher and Further Education until July 2022, when she became secretary of state for education. She resigned from this role after just 35 hours following a wave of resignations from Boris Johnson’s government, prompting his downfall.

Michelle Donelan leaving St Pauls cathedral after platinum jubilee thanksgiving service for Queen Elizabeth. Credit: Lorna Roberts (Shutterstock).

What is she known for?

Donelan has had little to say on culture policy during her career, though she has spoken out against the BBC’s licence fee, calling for it to be scrapped. She is known for having a strong attitude towards cancel culture and aimed to champion the issue of free speech and “academic freedom” on campus in her role as Minister of Higher and Further Education.

In April, referencing the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill, which aimed to prevent students and staff being “de-platformed”, she tweeted: “The intolerant woke bullies have had their brief period in the sun, but it is now over. Under our Bill, universities and student unions will face fines for supporting cancel culture.”

She also urged universities to reconsider their membership of a race equality charter. In her role as culture secretary, she will oversee several key decisions, including the proposed privatisation of Channel 4.

Other things to know

Jacob Rees-Mogg has been selected as the new secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy and will be responsible for Britain’s business, energy and industrial policy. Rees-Mogg has previously blamed high energy prices on “climate alarmism” in 2013 and was more recently branded a “climate dinosaur” by Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey, according to the Independent.

Alok Sharma – who served as business secretary from February 2020 to January 2021 – has been reappointed as COP26 president.

MP for North West Hampshire Kit Malthouse has been selected as the fourth education secretary in just over two months.

Banner image, Shutterstock. Credit: Lorna Roberts 

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