Ex-minister blames mortgage hike for his quitting UK government post

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Former UK science minister George Freeman has blamed an impending jump in the cost of his mortgage for his decision to quit the role and warned politics was becoming an unaffordable career.

Freeman, who stepped down last November during a reshuffle by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, said in a Substack blog he could not afford his mortgage going up to £2,000 a month on his previous ministerial salary of £118,300. 

The MP for Mid Norfolk explained his rationale for resigning: “Because my mortgage rises this month from £800 [per calendar month] to £2,000, which I simply couldn’t afford to pay on a ministerial salary. That’s political economy 2.0.”

Backbench MPs are paid £86,584 a year but, unlike ministers, they can make extra money from outside interests including corporate advisory roles, journalism or law. 

Sir Brandon Lewis, former chair of the Conservative party, has accumulated five roles with a combined salary worth nearly £500,000 a year on top of his job as an MP since he quit the cabinet. Lewis’s most controversial job is advising LetterOne, a company 49 per cent owned by two sanctioned Russian oligarchs. 

Boris Johnson made £4.8mn on top of his salary as a backbencher in the six months after he was forced out of office as prime minister. 

Although critics questioned how Freeman could be struggling to afford a £2,000 mortgage on a salary of nearly £120,000, the Tory MP told The New Statesman on Monday that his finances were “not what they were” after “a very painful divorce”.

Freeman was left disappointed by the November reshuffle, having been rejected for a cabinet role which could have delivered an extra £36,000 of pay.

Freeman’s travails echo those facing millions of homeowners across Britain as they come off fixed-rate deals into an environment of much higher interest rates. Rising rates have been driven by high inflation caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, although the Tory government’s “mini-Budget” in September 2022 also exacerbated the problem. 

Having worked in life sciences and technology before entering parliament — and having spent years in the roles of life sciences, transport and science — Freeman is well-placed to secure external work. 

“We’re in danger of making politics something only hedge fund donors, young spin-doctors and failed trade unionists can afford to do,” he said.

Freeman, who has a majority of 22,594 from the 2019 election, has not yet clarified whether he will seek re-election.

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