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Michelle Donelan named UK’s new Culture Secretary

The MP for Chippenham faces decisions on Channel 4 and the licence fee

By Joe Goggins

Portrait of Michelle Donelan MP, 2015
Donelan has been in Parliament since 2015. (Photo: Chris McAndrew/Wikimedia Commons)

Michelle Donelan has been named as the UK’s new Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, as details of Liz Truss’ first cabinet lineup emerged.

Donelan, who has been the MP for Chippenham since 2015, previously worked in marketing for World Wrestling Entertainment and Marie Claire magazine. She returns to a ministerial position for the first time since a stint as Education Secretary lasted just 35 hours back in July.

Donelan was promoted from her previous brief as Minister of State for Higher and Further Education on July 5, when the previous Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer. However, on July 7, she was more than one of 50 ministers to resign in an ultimately successful attempt to force Truss’ predecessor, Boris Johnson, from office.

Johnson departed Downing Street yesterday morning (September 6) with a typically self-aggrandising and truth-averse farewell speech. Having accepted the Queen’s invitation to form a government at Balmoral yesterday lunchtime, Truss spent the rest of the day packing her first cabinet as prime minister with loyalists.

This has seen Kwasi Kwarteng made Chancellor, Suella Braverman named Home Secretary, and James Cleverly appointed as Foreign Secretary, meaning that for the first time in British history, none of the four Great Offices of State are held by a white man.

Donelan’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it stint as Education Secretary grants her her own place in the UK political history books, as the shortest-tenured minister ever. Attention will now turn to her approach to the culture brief, particularly to whether she will change course on plans by her predecessor, Nadine Dorries, to privatise Channel 4, proposals which met with a fierce media backlash when first announced back in February.

Dorries, who announced her resignation late on Monday (September 5) despite Truss’ willingness to keep her on, had also planned to abolish the BBC licence fee by 2027.

Truss becomes the UK’s third female prime minister and faces a daunting in-tray that includes handling the cost of living crisis, a National Health Service stretched to breaking point and the ongoing war in Ukraine. Her victory was met scathingly by figures from across the cultural world, with comedian Omid Djalli describing the options of Truss and former Chancellor Rishi Sunak as “essentially a choice for the party voters between a punch in the throat or an iron bar into the bollocks.”