Matt Western promoted after Emma Hardy quits as shadow universities minister

Sienna Rodgers
© David Woolfall/CC BY 3.0

Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western is being promoted to the post of shadow universities minister in Labour’s education team as Emma Hardy has stepped down, LabourList can reveal.

Hardy, a former teacher and education union staffer, was first appointed to the role by Jeremy Corbyn in January last year. She was kept in place by Keir Starmer when he picked the Labour frontbench in April.

The Yorkshire MP has told Labour members in her local party that she made the decision to quit “with a heavy heart” and despite her “love of education”, “loyalty to Keir Starmer” and “admiration” of Kate Green.

Hardy has said she is standing down from the opposition frontbench because she wants to “fight wholeheartedly for the investment in jobs, services and infrastructure necessary to create a better future”.

Western, who will take on the role, represents a university town, and his wife is a history professor at Warwick University. He is a supporter of sustainable energy and urged Labour to adopt radical housing policies in 2019.

The change follows Karin Smyth’s decision to step down from the opposition frontbench over a week ago. Pontypridd MP Alex Davies-Jones took on the role of shadow minister in Labour’s Northern Ireland team.

Both Smyth and Hardy have served on the frontbench as parliamentary private secretary to Starmer when he was Shadow Brexit Secretary – the former from 2016 to 2017 and the latter from 2017 to 2020.

Below is the full text of Emma Hardy’s letter to her local party explaining the decision to step down.

Dear Member,

It was an honour to be offered, and to accept, the post of Shadow Minister for Further Education and Universities and it has been a pleasure to serve in the Shadow Cabinet.

The job of representing the many voices, concerns and interests of the higher education sector is an important one. It is one which reflects the prominent role higher education plays in both the cultural and financial prosperity of the nation. It equips future generations with the skills and intellectual tools they need to prosper; broadens horizons; and can offer a route out of poverty and deprivation.

It contains some of the brightest minds in the country, whose work and advice will be vital to shaping a better future for us all in the years ahead. It was with a heavy heart therefore, that I came to the decision to offer my resignation from the position.

Despite my love of education, my loyalty to Keir Starmer and admiration of the great job Kate Green MP is doing, resigning was a decision I felt I had to make. We all know the challenges that face the people of Hull West and Hessle after a decade of Conservative austerity and cuts. We must now add to that the effects of Covid-19. The last year has seen government indecisiveness and delay lead to repeated lockdowns which have taken a heavy toll on the place I love.

In the past year the number of residents contacting me needing help and support has risen dramatically; I was elected as their representative and their needs will always come first.

As our superbly run local NHS vaccination programme reaches more and more people, and businesses begin to reopen, the task of rebuilding will begin. If I am to seize the moment and fight whole-heartedly for the investment in jobs, services and infrastructure necessary to create a better future, then for the time being I will no longer be able to give the role of a Shadow Minister the time and energy it deserves.

And it will be a fight, but under Keir’s leadership it’s a fight we can win. This Conservative government is no friend to the residents of Hull and Hessle and the promises it made at the last election are already ringing hollow. I invite you to join me in the struggle for a fairer and more equal society and for the Labour government our country desperately needs.

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