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Last Updated: Friday, 13 June, 2003, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Profile: Estelle Morris
Estelle Morris
Mrs Morris was only briefly out of the government

Estelle Morris' decision to step down as an MP at the next general election will not come as a complete surprise to long-time observers of her political career.

The softly-spoken former teacher quit as education secretary two years ago, citing the pressure of the job and - unusually for a frontline politician - admitting that she did not feel up to the job.

Downing Street praised her candour and let it be known that her ministerial career may not be at an end.

She was drafted back on to the front bench less than a year later, albeit in a far more junior role, as an arts minister.

But the writing was clearly on the wall.

While at the helm of such a big, high-profile government department as education nobody doubted her passion for the subject - and she had the respect of the teachers' unions.

Media management

But tellingly, in her resignation statement as education secretary, Ms Morris said she felt she had achieved more in her first job as schools minister than as secretary of state.

She also said: "I am less good at strategic management of a huge department and I am not good at dealing with the modern media."

Nevertheless, she remained a popular figure both in Downing Street and over the road at the House of Commons.

Ms Morris had a strong Labour background long before her election to the Commons in 1992.

She was a long serving member of Warwick council and led its Labour group for seven years.

Her father and her uncle were both Labour MPs.

Rapid rise?

In Parliament, she rose quickly through the ranks, becoming a whip in 1994 and an education spokesman in 1995, drawing on her professional experience as a teacher.

When Labour came to power in 1997, she entered the Department for Education and Employment as an under secretary.

After the 2001 election, she became the first secretary of state for the new Department for Education and Skills.

There problems with the new A and AS Level exams placed under immense political pressure.

This was exacerbated by literacy and numeracy standards failing to match targets on which she had staked her career.

Finally the pressure proved too much and she quit the government in October 2002.

Her rapid return - albeit to a more humble role - allowed her to exercise her talents without the pressure of being in charge.

But her heart was clearly no longer in Westminster politics and she announced she is to step down as an MP at the next election, saying she wants to pursue other political challenges outside of the Commons.

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13 Jun 03  |  Politics

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