Cabinet reshuffle: Michael Gove ousted after Lib Dems warned they would exploit his unpopularity

Cameron claims Education Secretary has not been demoted despite £36,000 pay cut

Political Editor

Michael Gove has been surprisingly ousted from his job as Education Secretary as David Cameron moved to mend fences with public sector workers in the run-up to next year’s general election.

In his four years as a radical reformer, Mr Gove alienated the teaching unions and many others in the education world. He is replaced by Nicky Morgan, one of 10 Conservative women to win promotion in a sweeping cabinet reshuffle which Mr Cameron hailed as ensuring that his team’s members “reflect modern Britain”.

As Mr Gove left his education job, it was also announced that Andrew Lansley, the former Leader of the House of Commons who was replaced by William Hague in the reshuffle, would quit Parliament at the general election.

The Prime Minister showed a ruthless streak by removing one of his closest allies from the Department for Education (DfE) and making him the Government’s Chief Whip. Although Downing Street denied it was a demotion, Mr Gove’s salary will drop from £134,565 to £98,740 a year.

Read more: Who's in? Who's out?
New-look Cabinet PM hopes will keep him in Downing Street
Movers and shakers: What happened to Cameron’s 2010 Cabinet
Comment: PM’s new Cabinet will push us towards EU exit door
Sketch: Not quite ‘The Night of the Long Knives 2’

No 10 insisted that Ms Morgan will continue Mr Gove’s reforms, including the expansion of free schools. But she is expected to adopt a more conciliatory approach than her predecessor. George Osborne, the Chancellor and a close friend of Mr Gove, is said to have opposed the switch.

But Mr Gove’s fate may have been sealed by private Tory polling presented to Mr Cameron by Lynton Crosby, the party’s Australian election strategist, showing that Mr Gove had become deeply unpopular with teachers. Tory officials recalled that a lack of support among the 5.5 million public sector workers was one reason why the party failed to win an overall majority in 2010.

Nick Clegg warned Mr Cameron late last year that the Liberal Democrats were going to target Mr Gove because he was so disliked. There has since been a series of disputes over education inside the Coalition.

Today senior Liberal Democrat sources insisted that they decided to attack Mr Gove’s policies – not the man himself– after polling showed they were unpopular. The sources claimed Mr Gove’s working relationships with some colleagues – including some Conservatives – had broken down.  “Gove has a simple view of the world: if you are not totally with him, you are against him,” said one Liberal Democrat.

Video: Ministers respond to Cameron's reshuffle

Mr Cameron insisted that Mr Gove would play a critical role at the heart of the Government and there were hints that he could return to run a major department if the Tories retain power next year.

The Prime Minister said: “The Chief Whip is one of the most important jobs in Government and I wanted one of my big-hitters, one of my real stars, one of my great political brains – someone who has done extraordinary things for education in this country – to do that job, to deliver the Government’s programme and to help secure the future for our country. I am very pleased he is doing that job, he will do it brilliantly.”

Cameron aides argued that Mr Gove’s new role in presenting the Conservatives’ case showed he was not moved from the DfE for being unpopular.

Michael Gove and David Cameron during a meeting on education in 2012 (Getty) Michael Gove and David Cameron during a meeting on education in 2012 (Getty)
Mr Gove admitted that leaving his department was “a wrench” and revealed that Mr Cameron had given him the option of staying there. “I am not guided by what is popular at any given time, but by what is right,” he told the BBC. “I’ve got no idea how much I’ll be paid and it makes no difference to me. If the Prime Minister asks you to play a critical role at the heart of Government, helping him to ensure that the right people are in place and the right policies are being implemented in order to make this country a fairer and better place, that is just an enormous compliment and privilege.”

The surprise changeover at the DfE overshadowed the announcement that Mr Lansley would be standing down as an MP to seek a“role in international public service”. In his letter of resignation, Mr Lansley did not clarify what this role might be, and Downing Street declined to comment on whether he was being lined up for a specific job.

Nicky Morgan becomes new Education Secretary, replacing Michael Gove (Reuters) Nicky Morgan becomes new Education Secretary, replacing Michael Gove (Reuters)
The departure of Mr Gove also eclipsed the promotion of women, which Mr Cameron had intended to grab the headlines. Two women became full members of the Cabinet – Ms Morgan and Elizabeth Truss, the new Environment Secretary after the sacking of Owen Paterson. Two other women will attend the Cabinet for the first time but will not enjoy full cabinet status – Esther McVey, who remains employment minister, and Baroness (Tina) Stowell, who was made Leader of the House of Lords.

Mr Cameron had to head off an embarrassing dispute when it emerged that Lady Stowell would earn £22,000 less than the man she replaced – Lord Hill, who has been nominated as Britain’s European Commissioner. This led to jibes about “no equal pay” for women ministers. In a swift retreat, it was announced that the Conservative Party will top up Lady Stowell’s salary from £78,890 to £101,038 a year.

Of the 22 full cabinet members, five are now women (23 per cent). Of the 17 Conservatives, five are women – 29 per cent, just short of Mr Cameron’s goal for one in three ministerial jobs to be held by women. Of the 33 people who now attend Cabinet, eight are women (24 per cent). Of the 27 Tories who attend, eight are women (30 per cent).

Labour said Mr Cameron had “missed his target” because, when junior ministerial posts were taken into account, only 24 per cent of his team were women.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
Arts and Entertainment

Russell Brand at an anti-austerity march in June
peopleActor and comedian says 'there's no point doing it if you're not'
Sergio Aguero prepares for the game

Follow the latest events from this Champions League fixture

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
Sister Cristina Scuccia sings 'Like a Virgin' in Venice

Like Madonna, Sister Cristina Scuccia's video is also set in Venice

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say


Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Security Advisor – Permanent – Surrey - £60k-£70k

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

MI Analyst – Permanent – West Sussex – £25k-£35k

£25000 - £35000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

English Teacher

£100 - £160 per day + Mileage and Expenses: Randstad Education Leeds: Temporar...

KS1 Supply Teacher

£80 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recruiting fo...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album