Outrage at Tory minister who’s taxpayer-funded libel costs more than double

Michelle Donelan cost the taxpayer £34,000 in legal bills after making false 'extremist’ allegations against an academic

Michelle Donelan Tory MP

There is renewed outrage towards the Science Secretary after new figures have revealed the Tory minister’s legal bills have cost the taxpayer more than double the initial amount confirmed by the government. 

Total costs to the taxpayer related to Michelle Donelan’s libel case after she made false ‘extremism’ allegations about an academic have come to £34,000, it was revealed. 

The government had already paid a £15k settlement however an FOI request has now shown that more than £19k was also paid out in legal fees, more than doubling the final bill. 

Estimates made by Research Professional have put the total spend by the government as a result of Donelan’s libel at more than £60,000, including a £15k investigation by the UK Research & Innovation and over £8k for their legal counsel. 

The cabinet minister was forced to retract a claim she made against a professor which falsely suggested she supported Hamas and had breached principles on how public officials should behave.

The academic was cleared of any wrongdoing and the Secretary of State was accused by the University and College Union of making an “outrageous attack on academic freedom”, all in the name of “another Tory anti-woke headline”.

Peter Kyle, Labour’s Shadow Science Secretary said the total bill was a “slap in the face to hardworking families” and argued Donelan should have paid the money back in full to the taxpayer.

Campaign group Best for Britain responded: “This is incredible, considering how utterly unnecessary it was for Donelan to get involved and, actually, how beneath her office and dangerous as a precedent.

“And yet there has been absolutely no consequence or accountability. We just pick up the tab for her online trolling.”

Carol Vorderman wrote on X: “Penny Mordaunt defended her vehemently when the issue came to light saying that Donelan not accepting her redundancy payment of £16,000 (for serving as Education Sec for THIRTY FIVE HOURS) showed “the Honourable lady’s character”

“These Tories and their faux integrity eh?”

Close to 70% of the public thought Donelan should resign over using taxpayer money to settle the legal case when the figure was estimated at £15,000, a More in Common poll found, including 64% of 2019 Conservative voters.

(Image credit: Credit: David Woolfall)

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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