One of the biggest names in British politics, Michael Gove, has been appointed as Secretary of State at Defra in a surprise return to frontline politics.
Mr Gove, who failed to make Theresa May’s first Cabinet after he fell well short in the leadership battle following David Cameron’s resignation, is a former Education and Justice Secretary and falls squarely into the ‘political heavyweight’ category.
He replaces Andrea Leadsom, who was sacked by Mrs May after a largely uninspiring stint at Defra. She was in the post for less than a year.
Mr Gove, a prominent Brexit campaigner ahead of last year’s EU Referendum, arrives in the role at a critical time for Defra, a Department whose budget has come under pressure at a time it is being asked to formulate and implement a new policy for UK agriculture outside of the EU.
The MP for Surrey Heath has been a strong advocate for free trade in the past. During the Brexit campaign, he said a vote to leave would be a ‘galvanising, liberating, empowering moment of patriotic renewal’.
It would enable the UK to ‘take back control’ – of its sovereignty, economy, borders and spending priorities, he said.
He said the UK would be part of the European free trade zone with access to the European single market but ‘free from EU regulation which costs us billions of pounds a year’ and would be able to arrange trade deals with countries including the US, China and India.
Mr Gove was heavily criticised by teachers unions for his efforts to reform education policy during his time as Education Secretary.
- Shadow Minister for Housing from 2005 to 2007
- Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families from 2007 to 2010.
- Appointed Secretary of State for Education in May 2010, a post he held until July 2014
- From July 2014 to May 2015, served as Government Chief Whip and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury.
- Served as Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice from May 2015 until July 2016.
See Defra website for more detailed biography
Commenting on Twitter, the NFU said: “We look forward to working with Michael Gove at @DefraGovUK Secretary of State. A critical time for the government to #BackBritishFarming”
Ian Wright, director general of the Food and Drink Federation said: “It is a big boost that the Prime Minister has appointed one of the Cabinet’s heaviest hitters to a ministry so significantly at the heart of Brexit.
“We very much look forward to working with Mr Gove and his new team. With them and with friends from NFU and across UK food and drink we will champion the growth of the industry in the exciting months to come.”
Conservative MP George Freeman on Twitter: “A huge boost to Cabinet firepower. A heavyweight Conservative thinker, Michael Gove, is back.”