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Former Science Minister Resigned Because He Could Not Afford Mortgage Rise

George Freeman resigned as Science Minister in November (Alamy)

3 min read

George Freeman resigned as Minister of State for Science, Research and Innovation last year in part because he could not afford to pay for an increase in his mortgage on his ministerial salary.

Freeman, who has been the Conservative MP for Mid Norfolk since 2010, has held a number of ministerial roles – most recently serving as a science minister in Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak's governments. 

He resigned from his ministerial role in November last year during a cabinet reshuffle, announcing his intention to "focus on my health, family wellbeing and life beyond the front bench". He was succeeded by Andrew Griffith.

However, in a blog posted on 26 January, Freeman went into more detail as to why he had stepped back, claiming that he would struggle to afford a large increase in his mortgage.

"Why did I stand down?... Because my mortgage rises this month from £800pcm to £2,000, which I simply couldn’t afford to pay on a Ministerial salary," he wrote.

"That’s political economy 2.0. We’re in danger of making politics something only Hedge Funder Donors, young spin doctors and failed trade unionists can afford to do."

Huge mortgage payment hikes are one of the biggest challenges facing UK homeowners in 2024 as the cost of living crisis continues to bite. In particular, households coming off fixed term deals this year face sharp increases in monthly repayments.

Labour warned in December 2023 alone 170,000 homeowners were hit by higher mortgages as their fixed term deals come to an end – typically having to pay £240 more a month in repayments.

Freeman does not have plans to stand down as an MP: he recently told the New Statesman he is planning to stand for re-election. Outside of government, he would be free to take on second jobs, on top of his MPs' salary, subject to approval from the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA). 

The former minister also wrote about the emotional toll the job had taken on him and his family.

"I was so exhausted, bust and depressed that I was starting to lose the irrepressible spirit of optimism, endeavour, teamwork and progress which are the fundamentals of human achievement.

Describing government as a "cruel mistress" and modern politics as a "savage playground", he added that his "dear children" had paid a "very high price" during his time as a minister. 

Prior to his political career, Freeman had worked for 15 years in science and technology start-up founding and financing.

In his blog, Freeman wrote that while he had been proud to lead on a number of science and technological reforms, he believed that a much greater cross-party long-term commitment to a "shared national mission" would be needed if the UK is to navigate the future challenges and opportunities it faces.

"With a few key reforms we could fund and grow [businesses] here, attract billions in inward investment and unlock a new era of innovation-led growth," he wrote.

"Or risk becoming an increasingly aged, indebted, and nostalgic country whose best days are behind it..."

PoliticsHome has contacted Freeman for further comment.

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