Wednesday 15 September 2021 4:05 pm

Reshuffle: Robert Jenrick leaves cabinet after one controversy too many

Robert Jenrick sought to present himself as a clean-cut professional in the Cabinet, but the axe fell on the housing secretary after a string of high-profile and damaging accusations.

His sacking from Boris Johnson’s top team followed the unlawful approval of a Tory donor’s housing development and his eyebrow-raising journeys during lockdown.

As Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, he was also in charge of the planning reforms that have provoked persistent ire from fellow Conservatives.

Johnson brought the MP for Newark, and a former international managing director at auction house Christie’s, into the Cabinet fold swiftly after entering Downing Street in July 2019.

The Prime Minister stuck by Jenrick despite anger over his approval of media mogul Richard Desmond’s 1,500-home Westferry Printworks development in east London.

The permission came the day before a new council community levy would have cost Desmond’s company an extra £40 million.

Jenrick, a father of three, later had to quash his own approval, conceding the decision was “unlawful” due to “apparent bias”.

However, Downing Street insisted in June last year that the Prime Minister retained “full confidence” in the embattled minister despite widespread criticism.

Lockdown saga

Then, as the nation was ordered to stay indoors and give up social contact during the first lockdown, Jenrick was forced to explain his own movements in April last year.

The 39-year-old travelled 150 miles from his London property to his Herefordshire home, and then travelled for more than an hour to visit his parents in Shropshire.

Amid mounting criticism, he defended his actions – and kept his job – by saying he went to deliver food and medicine to his isolating parents.

Planning reforms were always going to present a major challenge for a Tory government, while trying to hit its target of building 300,000 new homes a year and keeping constituents in leafier areas on side.

Jenrick being the face of those proposals did nothing to improve his appeal on the Tory backbenches.

On Tuesday, he said it had been a “huge privilege” to serve in the Cabinet, thanking his colleagues in the housing ministry and adding: “I’m deeply proud of all we achieved.

“I will continue to support the Prime Minister and the Government in every way I can.”

Johnson thanked him for his “drive and commitment” in a statement from Downing Street.

A No 10 spokeswoman said: “Robert Jenrick has led crucial work over the last two years, most importantly driving reforms to build more houses so home ownership becomes a reality for many more people.”