Michelle Donelan is the UK’s new (old) Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), having been re-appointed to Rishi Sunak’s new government this evening. With questions remaining over cultural restitution, the BBC licence fee and Channel 4 privatisation, we take a quick look at Britain’s new culture secretary.
Donelan has been MP for Chippenham since 2015. When she was given the job under Liz Truss’ government last month, it was not her first senior cabinet role, though she’s now lasted far longer than the 36 hours she spent as education secretary under Boris Johnson in July. Her prompt resignation, amid the disintegration of Boris’ cabinet, means she holds the record as the UK’s shortest shortest-serving cabinet member in history.
Prior to becoming education secretary, Donelan was minister for higher education. In April of this year, while introducing a new bill, Donelan announced: “intolerant woke bullies have had their brief period in the sun”, adding that student unions would be fined “for supporting cancel culture.”
— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) October 25, 2022
Before moving into politics, Donelan worked in entertainment. She started her career in Australia, working for Pacific Magazines, before moving to The History Channel. She worked in “international marketing and corporate responsibility” as a communications manager for World Wrestling Entertainment. Donelan also worked at Marie Claire magazine.
She grew up in Whitley, Cheshire, and at the age of 15 she spoke at the 1999 Conservative Conference. “I went to a state school and was the first in my family to attend university,” her website reveals. “Broadening skills and opportunities is something I am truly passionate about – it is the reason why I entered politics.
“I have always believed in people – but we need to ensure everyone has the choices and chances to succeed. I want to help make this a reality for all – a country where there is not just a safety net to catch those who fall, but also ladders out to help people thrive, no matter what background they came from.”
Donelan’s website further lays out her stances on specific issues, however none listed are directly applicable to her new role as culture secretary.
But a 2019 column for the Melksham Independent News (her local paper) seems to indicate her views on the BBC licence fee. She wrote, “I was outraged by the BBC’s decision to revoke free TV licences for the over-75s. Personally, I think the licence fee is an unfair tax and should be scrapped altogether – but that is a different debate.
“The BBC have acted appallingly, and I am determined to do everything in my power to change their mind.”
Scrapping it would be a major decision, but will only be one of the many issues she’s facing.