Theresa May’s former chief of staff has accused sacked education secretary Justine Greening of blocking moves to reduce university tuition fees.
Nick Timothy said Ms Greening’s replacement by Damian Hinds was “the bright point” of this week’s Cabinet reshuffle and said the new Education Secretary was already being touted as a possible future prime minister.
Ms Greening walked out of the Government on Monday after turning down Mrs May’s offer of a move to the work and pensions brief.
Mr Timothy, who left Number 10 after being blamed for the Tories’ lacklustre election campaign last year, said the Putney MP had “exasperated” the PM by “putting the brakes” on policies like free schools and standing in the way of a review which could have allowed universities to charge varying fees to increase competition.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Timothy said: “Greening was unpopular with officials, she frustrated reformers, and she exasperated the Prime Minister. Charged with making Britain ‘the world’s great meritocracy’, she put the brakes on policies that work, like free schools, and devised bureaucratic initiatives of little value.”
Ms Greening had never dissented in public from Mrs May’s proposals to allow new grammars and increase sponsorship of state schools by universities, private schools and the Catholic church, but “stalled as far as she could”, said Mr Timothy.
He denied allegations that he had “orchestrated” Ms Greening’s dismissal, but made no secret of his disdain for her record, accusing her of succumbing to a change-resistant educational establishment which he termed “the blob”.
Theresa May’s former chief of staff Nick Timothy (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
“Greening blocked proposals to reduce tuition fees and refused to hold a proper review of tertiary education,” said Mr Timothy. “Hinds must be brave enough to do that, to ensure universities are better, fees are lower, and young people get the technical or academic education that suits them.
“He is already touted as a potential future prime minister: if he gets this right, he will be a convincing candidate for the job.”
Mr Timothy’s comments came as Environment Secretary Michael Gove named Mr Hinds – alongside Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson – as a potential future occupant of 10 Downing Street.
The ConservativeHome website quoted the Environment Secretary as saying that he could foresee a day when the two new Cabinet ministers might shape up against one another in a contest for the top job.
And Mr Gove told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “They, like so many other members of the Conservative Government and the Conservative Party, are incredibly impressive young politicians.
“We have got a brilliant Prime Minister in Theresa May at the moment. I hope she leads us into the next general election and I am convinced that if she does, we will have an increased majority.
“There is a pipeline of talent in the Conservative Party and the two members of Cabinet – Damian and Gavin – who I mentioned are people who come from the sorts of backgrounds that give them experience of life and also they are highly effective people.”
Mr Timothy’s criticisms of Ms Greening were rejected by former universities minister Jo Johnson, who worked under her at the Department for Education from 2016-18.
Mr Johnson, who became a minister in the Department for Transport and Minister for London in this week’s reshuffle, tweeted: “So wrong, this stuff re Justine Greening – she supported me in every single reform we undertook of our universities, was a terrific colleague and faultlessly loyal.”