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Michelle Donelan

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Michelle Donelan
Official portrait, 2022
Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology
Assumed office
20 July 2023
Prime MinisterRishi Sunak
Preceded byChloe Smith
In office
7 February 2023 – 28 April 2023
Prime MinisterRishi Sunak
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byChloe Smith
Minister on Leave
In office
28 April 2023 – 20 July 2023
Prime MinisterRishi Sunak
InterimChloe Smith[a]
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
In office
6 September 2022 – 7 February 2023
Prime MinisterLiz Truss
Rishi Sunak
Preceded byNadine Dorries
Succeeded byLucy Frazer
Secretary of State for Education
In office
5 July 2022 – 7 July 2022
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byNadhim Zahawi
Succeeded byJames Cleverly
Minister of State for Higher and Further Education[b]
In office
13 February 2020 – 5 July 2022
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byChris Skidmore
Succeeded byAndrea Jenkyns
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families
In office
4 September 2019 – 13 February 2020[c]
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byKemi Badenoch
Succeeded byKemi Badenoch
Lord Commissioner of the Treasury
In office
29 July 2019 – 13 February 2020
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byJeremy Quin
Succeeded byJames Morris
Assistant Government Whip
In office
26 July 2018 – 29 July 2019
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Member of Parliament
for Chippenham
In office
7 May 2015 – 30 May 2024
Preceded byDuncan Hames
Majority11,288 (19.8%)
Personal details
Born (1984-04-08) 8 April 1984 (age 40)[1]
Whitley, Cheshire, England
Political partyConservative
SpouseTom Turner
EducationThe County High School, Leftwich[2]
Alma materUniversity of York (BA)[1]
Websitemichelledonelan.co.uk Edit this at Wikidata

Michelle Emma May Elizabeth Donelan (born 8 April 1984) is an English politician serving as Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology since July 2023, having previously served in the position from February[3] to April 2023 before being temporarily replaced during her maternity leave. A member of the Conservative Party, Donelan also held three other cabinet positions from 2020 to 2023 under Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak. She has been Member of Parliament (MP) for Chippenham in Wiltshire since 2015.

Donelan was selected as the Parliamentary Candidate by the Conservative Party for the new Melksham and Devizes constituency in May 2023.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

The daughter of Michael Donelan and his wife Kathleen Johnson, Michelle Donelan was born in April 1984[1] and grew up in Whitley, Cheshire.[5][6] At the age of 15, Donelan spoke at the Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool,[2] having decided at the age of six to become a politician.[7]

Donelan was educated at The County High School, Leftwich,[2] a state school, before graduating from the University of York with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and politics. While at university, she was involved in York Student Television.[1][2]

Donelan's career outside politics was in marketing, including a time working on Marie Claire magazine and for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).[1][8]

Political career[edit]

Donelan with Liz Truss, 2015

Donelan stood at the 2010 general election in Wentworth and Dearne, coming second with 17.6% of the vote behind the incumbent Labour MP John Healey.[9][10]

She was then selected as the prospective parliamentary candidate for Chippenham in February 2013.[8][1][11] After her selection at Chippenham, she became a trustee of Help Victims of Domestic Violence, a charitable organisation based in the town and a member of the Steering Group of Wiltshire Carers.

At the 2015 general election, Donelan was elected to Parliament as MP for Chippenham with 47.6% of the vote and a majority of 10,076.[12][13][14]

Donelan served on the Education Select Committee between 2015 and 2018.[15]

Before the 2016 referendum, Donelan supported the UK remaining within the European Union.[16]

Donelan was re-elected as MP for Chippenham at the snap 2017 United Kingdom general election with 54.7% of the vote and a majority of 16,630.[17][18]

At the 2019 general election, Donelan was again re-elected, with a decreased vote share of 54.3% and a decreased majority of 11,288.[19][20]

Whip and Junior Education Minister[edit]

Donelan was appointed an assistant whip in 2018[21] and a government whip in July 2019. In September 2019, she was appointed parliamentary under-secretary for children to cover maternity leave for Kemi Badenoch.[22]

In the February 2020 cabinet reshuffle, she became Minister of State for Universities.[11][23][24] As of May 2020, her responsibilities included universities[2] and co-chairing the Family Justice Board, which oversees the performance of the family justice system and is advised by the Family Justice Council.[25]

In the 2021 cabinet reshuffle, her role was renamed Minister of State for Higher and Further Education, with the added right to attend cabinet. She was also sworn into the Privy Council.

During her tenure in the Department for Education, she campaigned for freedom of speech in Universities.[26]

Secretary of State for Education[edit]

On 5 July 2022, in the wake of a large number of resignations from the second Johnson ministry over Boris Johnson's handling of the Chris Pincher scandal and other political scandals, Donelan, who was then serving as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Skills, Further and Higher Education (previously named Minister of State for Higher and Further Education during her tenure) was promoted to Secretary of State for Education, after her predecessor Nadhim Zahawi was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer.

On 7 July 2022, after less than 36 hours in the role, Donelan resigned as Secretary of State, writing that Johnson had "put us in an impossible position".[27] She was the shortest-serving cabinet member in British history, her tenure being shorter than Earl Temple's four-day tenure as Foreign Secretary in 1783.[28] Following reports she would receive severance pay at Secretary of State level despite her short tenure, Donelan refused this payment.[29]

Conservative Party Leadership Elections 2022[edit]

Donelan initially backed Nadhim Zahawi[30] in the July-September 2022 Conservative Party leadership election, later backing Penny Mordaunt, after holding a constituency survey, she later switched her endorsement to Liz Truss after Penny Mordaunt and Nadhim Zahawi, who didn't receive enough support from Conservative MPs to move forward[31] was eliminated from the election. After Truss resigned, she endorsed Rishi Sunak in the October 2022 leadership election.[32][33]

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport[edit]

Donelan exiting Downing Street after a meeting of the Liz Truss Cabinet

Donelan was appointed Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on 7 September 2022 by then prime minister Liz Truss.[34] Rishi Sunak succeeded Truss following the October 2022 Conservative Party leadership election, and Donelan retained her position in the cabinet.[35]

She stated in January 2023 that she was against returning the Parthenon marbles to Greece, on the grounds that restitution would "open a can of worms" and be a "dangerous road to go down."[36] In the same month, Donelan cancelled a plan to privatise Channel 4 that had been announced by Nadine Dorries under Boris Johnson's premiership.[37]

Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology[edit]

Donelan with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in 2022

In a reshuffle of Sunak's cabinet on 7 February 2023, Donelan was appointed to the newly created role of Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology.

It was announced on 21 April 2023 that during her maternity leave, Donelan would be temporarily replaced as Secretary of State by Chloe Smith.[38] She returned to her ministerial role on Thursday 20 July 2023 after 3 months of ministerial maternity leave.[39]

Under Donelan's portfolio in the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, was the controversial Online Safety Act 2023. Under her leadership the Act was amended and made its passage through both Houses of Parliament, after the bills long tenure within the development stages and through its passage of Parliament. Donelan is planning to introduce major reform in online safety.[40][41]

Libel settlement[edit]

In October 2023, in her role as science minister, Donelan wrote to the head of UKRI (the body which directs government funding to research and innovation) suggesting that two academics recently appointed to a UKRI advisory group had expressed sympathy for Hamas and shared extremist views.[42] The letter was also published at Donelan's Twitter/X account. In response, Ottoline Leyser, UKRI chief executive, suspended the advisory panel and began an inquiry.[43] Over 2,500 academics signed an open letter condemning Donelan's accusation as an attack on academic freedom.[44]

In March 2024, Donelan publicly retracted the allegations and deleted the October tweet. One of the academics, Kate Sang of Heriot-Watt University, had commenced a libel action against Donelan, who was represented by the government legal service.[45] According to Sang's lawyer, Donelan had based her allegations on a misleading press release from the Policy Exchange lobby group.[46] Donelan's department paid compensation of £15,000 to Sang, plus legal costs. Donelan also apologised to the second appointee.[42][47][48] Sang's lawyer said "It is extraordinary that a minister should be guided by a lobby group into making serious false allegations about private citizens without doing the first piece of due diligence."[42]

The total cost to public funds was said in April 2024 to be more than £34,000, comprising the previously disclosed £15,000 compensation to Sang, alongside legal costs of £7785 for the Government Legal Department and £11,600 for external legal counsel.[49] In addition, UKRI spent £15,000 on the investigation and £8,280 on legal advice.[50]

Parliamentary Candidate for the new Melksham and Devizes Constituency[edit]

In May 2023, she announced she would be contesting the Melksham and Devizes constituency at the 2024 general election,[51] as the boundaries of her Chippenham seat had been redrawn.

Personal life[edit]

Donelan is married to Tom Turner. His family's firm Stronghold Global, a procurement company, has had government supply contracts.[52] In December 2022, Donelan announced that she was expecting a baby[53] and went on maternity leave at the end of April 2023.[54]

Donelan identifies as Christian.[55]


She was appointed a member of the Privy Council on 20 September 2021, invested via video link at Balmoral Castle.[56]


  1. ^ In accordance with the Ministerial and other Maternity Allowances Act 2021, Smith temporarily served as Science Secretary during Donelan's maternity leave.
  2. ^ Known as Minister of State for Universities from 2020 to 2021. Attending cabinet from September 2021.
  3. ^ Donelan was appointed as maternity cover for Kemi Badenoch


  1. ^ a b c d e f Anon (2017). "Donelan, Michelle Emma May Elizabeth". Who's Who (online Oxford University Press ed.). Oxford: A & C Black. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U283877. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ a b c d e Kernohan, David (2020). "Who is new universities minister Michelle Donelan?". wonkhe.com. Retrieved 15 June 2020.
  3. ^ "Politics news – latest: Sunank announcing changes to top team – but Raab not expected to be moved". Sky News. Retrieved 7 February 2023.
  4. ^ "Wiltshire MP decides which seat to stand for after '50/50 split'". The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald. 15 May 2023. Retrieved 18 September 2023.
  5. ^ "No. 61230". The London Gazette. 18 May 2015. p. 9126.
  6. ^ "Michelle Donelan MP". myparliament.info. MyParliament. Archived from the original on 26 October 2017. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
  7. ^ Rea, Ailbhe (21 August 2020). "Paranoid Androids". New Statesman. p. 14.
  8. ^ a b "Tories select Michelle Donelan as prospective parliamentary candidate for Chippenham". Bath Chronicle. 4 March 2013.
  9. ^ "Election Data 2010". Electoral Calculus. Archived from the original on 26 July 2013. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  10. ^ "Election results: Wentworth & Dearne". BBC News. 7 May 2010. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  11. ^ a b Baker, John (17 February 2020). "Michelle Donelan, the MP for Chippenham, is the new Minister of State for Universities". wiltshiretimes.co.uk. Wiltshire Times. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  12. ^ "Election Data 2015". Electoral Calculus. Archived from the original on 17 October 2015. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  13. ^ "Chippenham | Parliamentary on Thursday 7 May 2015 | Wiltshire Council". elections.wiltshire.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 6 August 2020. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  14. ^ "UK ELECTION RESULTS". electionresults.blogspot.co.uk. Archived from the original on 18 February 2016. Retrieved 26 November 2014.
  15. ^ "Parliamentary career for Michelle Donelan". UK Parliament. Retrieved 29 October 2022.
  16. ^ Goodenough, Tom (2016). "Which Tory MPs back Brexit, who doesn't and who is still on the fence?". spectator.co.uk. The Spectator. Archived from the original on 22 October 2016. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  17. ^ "Chippenham (Constituency) 2017 results - General election results - UK Parliament". Archived from the original on 9 May 2021. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  18. ^ "Election 2017: Chippenham parliamentary constituency". bbc.co.uk. BBC News. 9 June 2017. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  19. ^ "Chippenham Parliamentary constituency". bbc.com. Retrieved 13 December 2019.
  20. ^ "Chippenham parliamentary constituency - Election 2019". BBC News. Archived from the original on 10 May 2021. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  21. ^ "Michelle Donelan MP". gov.uk. Retrieved 21 September 2019.
  22. ^ "Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Children and Families) (maternity cover)". gov.uk. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  23. ^ "University students and COVID-19 FAQ – Education in the media". dfemedia.blog.gov.uk.
  24. ^ "Michelle Donelan named universities minister as science split off". timeshighereducation.com. Times Higher Education. 13 February 2020.
  25. ^ "Family Justice Board". gov.uk. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  26. ^ "In Defence of Free Speech with Rt Hon Michelle Donelan MP". Policy Exchange. Retrieved 19 September 2023.
  27. ^ Scott, Jennifer (7 July 2022). "New Education Secretary Michelle Donelan quits as Nadhim Zahawi tells Boris Johnson 'go now"'". Sky News. Retrieved 7 July 2022.
  28. ^ Gutteridge, Nick (7 July 2022). "Minister who quit after 35 hours is in line for £17,000 payout". The Telegraph. Retrieved 8 July 2022.
  29. ^ Baker, John (21 September 2022). "Wiltshire MP 'rejected' £17,000 Education Secretary pay-off after serving for two days". Wiltshire Times. Retrieved 15 October 2022.
  30. ^ Donelan, Michelle [@michelledonelan] (9 July 2022). "I've worked with @nadhimzahawi in the Department for Education, and around the cabinet table over the last 10 months. I'm backing him to be our next Prime Minister because he gets things done and delivers just like he did as Vaccines Minister 💉" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  31. ^ "Who is backing whom? Tory MPs offer support as six leadership hopefuls remain". ITV News. 14 July 2022. Retrieved 19 September 2023.
  32. ^ "The race to 100 – who are Tory MPs backing to be the next prime minister?". Sky News. 24 October 2022.
  33. ^ "Chippenham MP Michelle Donelan backs Penny Mordaunt for PM". Wiltshire Times. 15 July 2022.
  34. ^ Simpson, Matthew (7 September 2022). "Michelle Donelan given role in new PM Liz Truss' cabinet". Northwich Guardian.
  35. ^ Yossman, K. J. (25 October 2022). "New U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Reappoints Michelle Donelan as Culture Secretary". Variety.
  36. ^ "Parthenon Sculptures belong in UK, says Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan". BBC News. 11 January 2023.
  37. ^ Morris, Sophie (4 January 2023). "Plans to privatise Channel 4 to be scrapped by Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan, reports suggest". Sky News. Retrieved 18 September 2023.
  38. ^ "Ministerial Appointments: April 2023". GOV.UK. Retrieved 21 April 2023.
  39. ^ "Science Secretary Michelle Donelan returns from three-month maternity leave". The Independent. 20 July 2023. Retrieved 18 September 2023.
  40. ^ "Online Safety Bill". House of Parliament. Retrieved 18 September 2023.
  41. ^ "Online Safety Bill – Update – Statement made on 29 November 2022". House of Parliament. 29 November 2022. Retrieved 18 September 2023.
  42. ^ a b c Adams, Richard; Walker, Peter (5 March 2024). "UK science minister apologises and pays damages after academic's libel action". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 March 2024.
  43. ^ Adams, Richard (3 November 2023). "UK research funding body in row with ministers over free speech and Gaza". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 9 March 2024.
  44. ^ Wood, Poppy (2 November 2023). "Universities free speech row over Gaza Israel as ministers accused of trying to silence academics". i News. Retrieved 6 March 2024.
  45. ^ Green, David Allen (7 March 2024). "Why did the government have to settle the libel claim against Michelle Donelan?". Prospect Magazine. Retrieved 9 March 2024.
  46. ^ "Minister forced into climb down over academic comments on Gaza". Bindmans. 5 March 2024. Retrieved 15 March 2024.
  47. ^ "Minister pays damages to academic she accused of Hamas sympathy". Shropshire Star. 5 March 2024. Retrieved 5 March 2024.
  48. ^ Wood, Poppy (6 March 2024). "Taxpayers paid £15,000 to settle Michelle Donelan's libel case". iNews. Retrieved 6 March 2024.
  49. ^ Whannel, Kate (11 April 2024). "Michelle Donelan's libel bills cost taxpayers £34,000". BBC News. Retrieved 11 April 2024.
  50. ^ Crerar, Pippa (11 April 2024). "Michelle Donelan used £34,000 of taxpayer funds to cover libel costs". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 12 April 2024.
  51. ^ Baker, John (15 May 2023). "Chippenham MP to fight Melksham & Devizes seat at general election". Wiltshire Times. Retrieved 5 March 2024.
  52. ^ "REVEALED: Minister's partner's firm awarded lucrative Covid contracts". Good Law Project. 4 November 2021. Retrieved 20 September 2023.
  53. ^ Asher MacShane, "Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan announces she's expecting a baby next year", LBC, 14 December 2022
  54. ^ John Baker, "Cabinet minister goes on maternity leave", Wiltshire Times, 28 April 2023
  55. ^ "About Michelle". michelledonelan.co.uk. Archived from the original on 16 September 2021. Retrieved 7 February 2023.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament
for Chippenham

Political offices
Preceded by Lord Commissioner of the Treasury
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of State for Higher and Further Education

(Known as Minister of State for Universities 2020–2021)

Succeeded byas Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Skills, Further and Higher Education
Preceded by Secretary of State for Education
Succeeded by
Preceded by Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Succeeded byas Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
New office Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology