First-ever openly lesbian cabinet minister to stand down at next election ‘over Tories’ handling of Brexit’

Former education secretary Justine Greening has announced she will not be standing for the Conservatives in the next election, accusing the party of becoming “the Brexit Party”.

Greening has served the Conservatives since 2006 and became the first cabinet minister to come out while in office in 2016.

As well as education secretary, she was also minister for women and equalities. Her decision to come out publicly on the day of Pride in London led to her winning politician of the year at the PinkNews Awards in 2017.

In an open letter on Tuesday, September 3, she issued a scathing criticism of Boris Johnson’s government, saying she is “deeply concerned” by the party’s approach to Brexit.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the Putney MP accused the Conservative party of “narrowing down its appeal” by moving further to the right. She said a general election would not offer people a “sensible choice”.

Greening’s resignation comes after the government threatened to remove the whip from long-serving MPs if they voted against its Brexit plans. She is among the handful of Tory MPs risking expulsion by backing a bill to block a no-deal Brexit.

She indicated she was not deterred by the threat of dismissal and would be voting for legislation this week to force the government to extend Article 50 rather than take Britain out without a deal.

“It’s very clear to me that my concerns about the Conservative Party becoming the Brexit Party in effect have to pass,” she said.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 18: Joint winner of the Politician of the Year award, Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Education, speaks on stage during the Pink News Awards 2017 held at One Great George Street on October 18, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images)

Justine Greening speaks on stage during the PinkNews Awards 2017 (John Phillips/Getty)

“Therefore my decision is that if I really want to continue to make a difference on the ground on opportunity and on social mobility, I need to do that outside parliament, and that’s what I’m prepared to do.”

Greening has previously spoken out in support of LGBT-inclusive education and the need for the UK to continue pushing for LGBT+ rights.

Along with most of her Putney constituency, she voted strongly for Remain in 2016.

Supporters have praised her for standing by her principles, but lamented yet another moderate Conservative MP dropping out of parliament over ongoing Brexit negotiations.

Greening said she would continue to be a Tory member and vowed to stay involved in politics, but said parliament had been “stymied” by Brexit.