Minister for Incompetence, ‘Failing Grayling’, Born on April Fools Day, Leaves Government

For many, Chris Grayling’s name was a byword for incompetence – and he left Government wedded to the unflattering moniker “Failing Grayling”.

His record for mistakes was long and notorious.

As transport secretary, his decision to award Seaborne Freight a contract worth £13.8 million to run services between Ramsgate and Ostend in Belgium – despite having no ships – attracted widespread criticism.

He faced a vote of no confidence – but survived – over Northern Rail’s chaotic timetable collapse which resulted in widespread disruption and thousands of furious passengers.

And the minister – born on April Fool’s Day – faced ire when he controversially ditched plans to make the railway network faster, greener and cleaner by electrifying lines.

His reputation for blunders was forged long before he stepped into the role of transport secretary in 2016, his reward for masterminding Theresa May’s leadership campaign.

As justice secretary before that, he introduced new fees for employment tribunals, banned people from sending books to prisoners, and brought forward court fees which the then chairman of the Bar Council warned could incentivise innocent people to plead guilty.

All of the moves were subsequently overturned.

He also triggered an angry campaign from musicians such as Johnny Marr, Dave Gilmour and Billy Bragg when he banned steel-string guitars from prisons.

Other failures included Mr Grayling’s decision to bring forward legal aid restrictions for domestic violence victims, cut legal aid for prisoners and set up a body which won a £6 million contract to train prison staff in Saudi Arabia.

Before entering government in 2010 as employment minister, Mr Grayling held a series of shadow cabinet positions and was also caught up in controversy then.

While in opposition he claimed parts of Britain were so blighted by crime they resembled the streets of Baltimore in cult TV show The Wire.

In 2010 he faced calls to quit when he said bed and breakfast guest houses run by Christians should be allowed to turn away gay couples because of their sexuality.

He told a meeting of the Centre for Policy Studies think tank that hotels should not be allowed to discriminate against homosexuals, but individuals should have the right to decide who stayed in their home.

But he was also seen as “the jackal” of the Tory Party, ruthlessly and persistently pursuing what he considered breaches of ethics and the collapse of standards.

Some believed his unrelenting campaign against David Blunkett’s alleged breaches of the ministerial code played at least some part in the then work and pensions secretary’s second resignation from the cabinet.

Until then, Mr Grayling was virtually unknown outside political circles, having entered Parliament only in 2001.

As a former quiet man of Westminster, he then began making ripples as the custodian of political morals.

Born in 1962, he grew up in Buckinghamshire but his parents moved to Cheshire when he was 19 and he has extensive family links in the North West.

He was educated at the Royal Grammar School in High Wycombe before going to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, to read history.

After university, Mr Grayling joined the BBC’s news training scheme and worked as a producer on BBC News and Channel 4’s Business Daily.

Later he moved to the business side of the media industry and worked for a number of small and medium-sized production businesses before going to international communications firm Burson-Marsteller, where he completed his time as European marketing director.