Ever since he regained what is, in his own words, “the best job in government” there have been calls for Jo Johnson to resign.
Not because of his performance in the role – though his first stint became combative and divisive, he has generally been seen as a very capable minister with an eye for detail. But because his first ministerial resignation was a principled decision based on the damage he felt a disorderly Brexit would cause. And if these principles drove him to act then, surely they must do so now.
With only three days of parliamentary time in post a clutch of written answers are his legacy, second time around. The sector was swirling with rumours of something big at next weeks UUK conference – a response, at least, to the now seriously overdue Pearce Review of TEF. Yesterday’s Spending Round announcement was long on electioneering and short on detail, but it didn’t appear to leave much wiggle room for anything splashier for the coming year.
For all the “even his brother doesn’t trust Boris” air war, could a lack of anything for HE in Javid’s statement speak of arguments behind the scene. The Government is, after all, sitting on their response to the Augar report – part of a process designed to develop an election-friendly response to the Labour “free education” strategy.
The only surprise is that JJ stuck it out as long as he did. In HE political circles, his resignation was priced in from the start. His statements on the need for a Peoples’ Vote were clear and numerous – his activism on visa changes for international students was far removed from Priti Patel’s posturing.
Jo’s resignation this time is from government and from politics, he will stand down as MP in the next election. A serious and thoughtful man, with an international perspective, he seems made for another time.
Access and Participation plan
His was a ministerial role with a low continuation rate, something that the government will need to address. Since 2015 there have been four changes of minister. And the progression rate hasn’t been much to shout about either. Only Greg Clark progressed to a cabinet role – Jo was shunted sideways to Transport, Chris Skidmore to Health. Sam Gyimah is no longer a member of the Conservative Party.
And in terms of admissions, the last ten incumbents have been men (Margaret Hodge was the last woman). Since 2010, all those who held the post attended either Oxford or Cambridge as an undergraduate. Dare we suggest that it may be time for a change?