Because if you’re going to say adieu to the Prime Minister then you might as well do it in a classy manner.
7. Mark Harper, immigration minister, 8 February 2014.
Cabinet Office / Via Flickr: cabinetoffice
Resignation rating: 2/10The deed: Employed a cleaner without permission to work in the UK. At the same time as being the government minister responsible for ensuring people without permission to work in the UK do not work in the UK. Yes, it’s HYPOCRISY AHOY.Style of resignation: Pretty boring, really. He handed in his resignation out of the blue on a Saturday afternoon, which meant political journalists got very excited that other journalists were about to expose a massive scandal in the Sunday papers. By the time everyone stopped asking “who’s Mark Harper?” no more details had emerged and everyone just got on with their lives.Legacy: Introduced “The Harper”: a new, cold, boring form of British political resignation that allows the resignee to spend a few months bumbling around their constituency before friendly journalists start suggesting that they could be due for a return to a different ministerial job. Basically, this is all very bad news for connoisseurs of the political scandal.
6. Andrew Mitchell, chief whip, 19 October 2012
Luke Macgregor / Reuters / Reuters
Resignation rating: 3/10The deed: A stunning front page story by The Sun alleged that Mitchell had sworne at police on the gate of Downing Street, called them “fucking plebs” and generally acted like the most stereotypical Tory ever. A cracker of a story, like something from the dying days of the John Major government when you weren’t considered a Conservative MP unless you were sleeping with your secretary *and* her sister. Except, er, it there’s now a few questions over the accuracy of the original story. Which takes the fun out of it.Style of resignation: Very drawn out, which makes more sense with hindsight. Everyone “knew” that Mitchell was just the sort of person to shout about plebs at people so they “knew” that he probably did it and they “knew” that it was just a matter of time before he was forced to resign. Mitchell insisted none of this was true, which was problematic when everyone “knew” he was wrong. This dominated the news agenda for weeks at the end of 2012 and almost overshadowed an EU summit. Legacy: Reform of the Police Federation, the quasi-union who pushed the allegations. The rehabiliation of Andrew Mitchell as a wronged man. A slightly sheepish backtrack by the press, who feel a bit awkward about the fun they had at the toffish Chief Whip’s expense.
5. Chloe Smith, cabinet office minister, 6 October 2013.
Oli Scarff / Getty Images
Resignation rating: 4/10.The deed: Actually didn’t do anything wrong but jumped before she was pushed, which is a pretty tragic end for a woman who became the first British government minister to be born after the introduction of the compact disc. Smith stepped down in October 2013 because “my constituents have always come first for me.” Unkind translation: “I have a small majority and Labour are going to come gunning for me in 2015.” Style of resignation: A gentle lament for better days, the 31-year-old jumped along with government whip John Randall (a man at the other end of his career) just days before an expected reshuffle. A bit sad really. Legacy: Possibly the first and last self-livetweeted resignation.
4. David Laws, Treasury secretary, 28 May 2010.
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Resignation rating: 5/10The deed: Laws used parliamentary expenses to rent a room in a house owned by his partner, which was against House of Commons rules. Having spent two decades slogging through the Liberal Democrat ranks he had to resign as Chief Secretary to the Treasury within weeks of getting his first sniff of power. It was all a bit messy, since Laws ended up revealing that he was in a relationship with a man as a result of the story, something that he had previously kept quiet.Style of resignation: Clean. No messing about. The Daily Telegraph published the story on 28 May 2010 and he resigned the following day. Legacy: Danny Alexander stepped up to fill Laws’ shoes and in the process became one of the four most powerful politicians in the country. This resignation set a British political precedent for going without a fight in the hope that one can get back into the cabinet a few years later – and it worked.
3. Maria Miller, culture secretary, 9 April 2014.
Suzanne Plunkett / Reuters
Resignation Rating: 7/10The deed: You probably won’t remember this, but Miller wasn’t actually found guilty of funding a home for her parents at taxpayers’ expense, the central charge against her. But she did overclaim on some expenses – £45,000 in the opinion of the independent standards commissioner, or £5,800 in the opinion of her fellows MPs. The style: Torturous. Agonising. It wasn’t so much the deed as the handling of it. Annoyed the media? Check. A thirty second apology that was done through teeth so firmly gritted she looked like Dirty Harry asking a punk if he felt lucky? Check. Lost control of the story? Check. And so on, and so on. Fellow ministers wasted days going on TV to explain that she shouldn’t resign because the media were only being nasty because Miller pushed through the same-sex marriage bill, which everyone had forgotten about anyway.The Legacy: Quite possibly the first ministerial resignation whereby the minister first shot herself in the foot, then shot herself in the other foot, then having run out of feet to shoot went on to beat herself over the head with the gun. Then resigned. Brilliantly stupid and really quite impressive to watch.
2. Chris Huhne, energy secretary, 5 February 2012.
JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP / Getty Images
Resignation Rating: 9/10The deed: He lied and he lied and he lied and lied. About a damn speeding ticket. Look, it’s not the biggest deal in the world but mix in a spurned government advisor wife who leaked details of taking points for her then-husband, a new lover and a cabinet minister was media gold. Remember that Huhne could have been Liberal Democrat leader and probably Deputy Prime Minister if it weren’t for the sake of 500 votes.The style: Huhne’s resignation from his cabinet position followed 10 months of media speculation over whether his wife had taken the penalty points, whether she could have driven that fast, pretty much anything. In his resignation statement from the cabinet Huhne insisted he was “innocent of these charges” (he wasn’t) but they were becoming a distraction (true). But he really earned the high resignation rating for later quitting as an MP on the steps of Southwark crown court in front of the massed media after changing his plea to guilty at the last minute. Now THAT is how you do it.The Legacy: A stint in prison for the ex-minister, a stint in prison for his wife Vicky Pryce, a bitter family feud played out in the media and a trial for Constance Briscoe, a part-time judge and friend of Pryce who is accused of perverting the course of justice. Still, it earned Huhne a Guardian column and the chance to join Neil Hamilton and Jonathan Aitken in the club of people whose name is always preceded by the phrase “disgraced former politician”.
1. Liam Fox, defence secretary, 14 October 2011.
Dan Kitwood / Getty Images
Resignation rating: 10/10The deed: Pure scandalgeddon. His best friend Adam Werritty was running a charity called The Atlantic Bridge, which Fox founded, direct from his House of Commons office. Fox and Werrity met dozens of times on trips, apparently without civil servants present. These included a meeting in Dubai with the chief executive of an investment fund, as well as an “unofficial” meeting that took place with Sri Lanka’s president in December 2010 at the Dorchester Hotel. Werritty also used to carry cards describing himself as an adviser to “the Rt Hon Liam Fox MP”. Fox later said he’d allowed professional and personal interests to become “blurred”.Style of resignation: As smooth as it gets. Fox was being investigated amid claims he broke the ministerial code. But before he was pushed, he sent a marvellous resignation letter which included the delightfully mock contrite line: “I now have to hold myself to my own standard.”Legacy: No messing about here. Within a month Fox announced plans to return to frontline politics and spent most of 2012 making mischief over the Coalition’s handling of the economy, proudly announced he and Werritty were still taking holidays together, and only a couple of months ago was telling us the NHS needs to have the ringfence taken off its budget. The first – maybe last – cabinet minister to make himself more prominent within his own party by resigning.
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