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Coffee House

May adviser resigns as Cameron takes control of extremism row

7 June 2014

7:09 PM

7 June 2014

7:09 PM

Theresa May’s adviser Fiona Cunningham has resigned as part of the fallout from the Cabinet row over extremism as David Cameron seeks to regain control of his ministers.

The Prime Minister today received the results of Sir Jeremy Heywood’s investigation into the row, which exploded onto the front page of the Times and spread like wildfire through other media as the Gove and May camps briefed against one another. Both have been set tasks by the PM to demonstrate that this row is over. Gove has written to Charles Farr and Cameron apologising for his briefing over lunch to the Times which sparked the row. As for the furious response from May’s advisers, that has cost Cunningham, in a relationship with Farr and the source of those explosive briefings to the newspaper, her job. Gove will also give an account of the findings of the investigations into the schools in Birmingham to the Commons on Monday.

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Neither minister has got off lightly from this, although May has been worse hit by losing one of her trusted advisers, who is famously loyal and very much an aide who seeks to promote the career chances of her boss, as well as dealing with the day-to-day challenges of the department. Cunningham was an important part of Team Theresa, pushing for the Home Secretary to soar even further in the future. But the danger of letting either camp off for a briefing war that disclosed official write-round correspondence and distracted from a don’t-rock-the-boat Queen’s Speech was too great. The Prime Minister needs a Cabinet that rows behind him: and the other members now know that disobedience will not be without a cost.

Full Downing Street statement:

‘The Prime Minister has been deeply concerned by the allegations made about extremism and a number of Birmingham schools.  The Government, through the Department for Education and Ofsted, has taken swift action to investigate these allegations since they emerged in late 2013.

‘The Prime Minister is taking a specific interest in ensuring this serious matter is being dealt with effectively.  The detailed findings of the investigations will be set out in Parliament on Monday by the Secretary of State for Education.  The Prime Minister has made clear that he expects a robust response from all relevant organisations to any findings that confirm that the safety and learning of children in our schools have been put at risk.  The Prime Minister has prioritised fighting all forms of extremism, including through setting up his Extremism Taskforce in the wake of the horrific killing of Lee Rigby.

‘In relation to unauthorised comments to the media about the Government’s approach to tackling extremism and the improper release of correspondence between Ministers, the Prime Minister has received the Cabinet Secretary’s review establishing the facts behind these events.  In acknowledgement of his role, today, the Secretary of State for Education has written separately to Charles Farr and the Prime Minister apologising for the original comments made to the Times newspaper.  In addition, in relation to further comments to the Times, Fiona Cunningham has today resigned.’

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