In the past few minutes, Deputy Chief Whip John Randall and Cabinet Office Minister Chloe Smith have quit the government ahead of an expected reshuffle this week. James outlined some of the movers and shakers in his column today, and we will bring you full details of the departures and moves as they come, although the word from Downing Street is that there will be no more departures tonight. Smith had the distinction of being able to announce her own departure on Twitter, saying she decided last month:-
Stepped down as Minister,proud of record.Told PM of my decision in Sept:my constituency work has always mattered most http://t.co/kfsf8ZE2Xk
— Chloe Smith (@ChloeSmithMP) October 6, 2013
Smith, 31, had been responsible for the controversial lobbying bill, along with leader of the House Andrew Lansley, but is perhaps best known for her awkward encounter with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight, which you can relive below. That interview took place in her previous job, as Economic Secretary to the Treasury. Smith is apparently resigning to spend more time focusing on interesting young people in politics, which may sound like a new version of ‘to spend more time with family’, but she has at least expressed an interest in this before – I wrote a column for the Telegraph on it recently. But she also has a mighty fight ahead of her in her marginal seat. She has a 3,901 majority to defend against Labour candidate Jessica Asato and energetic union campaigning in the Norwich North constituency.
I also hear that she told colleagues a few weeks ago that she would be writing to the Prime Minister asking to no longer be in the government. I understand that Francis Maude was particularly disappointed to hear this, as he felt she was an effective minister, particularly on cyber security and ensuring SMEs won business from government.
The gossip among Tory MPs tonight is that Randall may have stepped down because Andrew Mitchell is on his way back into the government. Remember that Randall threatened to quit if Mitchell stayed during the ‘plebgate’ row.
As for who might be moving up, here’s a paragraph from James’ column today on who is tipped for the top:
‘This is particularly good news for Esther McVey (left) the Liverpool-born GMTV presenter-turned- Tory politician. Made Minister for Disabled People last year, she has impressed in office. She’s sensitively but forcefully made the case for changes in disability benefits. She is now set for a second successive promotion.
Another name in the frame is Kris Hopkins. Hopkins, a Yorkshire MP, is a former army private who has impressed the Cameron circle with his straight-talking loyalty.’