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The 2014 government sackings – as they happened

14 July 2014

5:47 PM

14 July 2014

5:47 PM

For all of today’s reshuffle updates, including the new appointments and podcast reactions, follow our liveblog here.

23.44 That’s it for tonight. We’ll be back at 6am tomorrow, with more news of the reshuffle. Will Esther McVey, Liz Truss and Priti Patel become the new faces of David Cameron’s government? And will any of them much welcome the idea that this is a mission to bring more women into Westminster? Join us tomorrow to find out.

23.22 Dear John letters: The Prime Minister has written to the seven ministers who resigned. His hand will be rather sore after all of this sacking. Here’s what he wrote to each of them:

1) To Kenneth Clarke (Minister without Portfolio):

‘Since you first entered Parliament in 1970, and over forty years since your first Front Bench role as a PPS, your passion for getting things done and the energy you have brought to your Cabinet posts has not diminished one bit. Indeed, it is now a quarter of a century since your first Cabinet position. To have that level of experience at my own Cabinet table has been incredibly helpful – both to me as Prime Minister and to the whole Cabinet.

You have never been timid to raise issues of importance or to stand up for causes that matter to you, but you have also brought a keen sense of humour to the Cabinet table – and you will be hugely missed.’

2) To George Young (Chief Whip and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury):

‘You stepped into the breach as Chief Whip at a very sensitive time and have given exemplary service in this role, as I knew you would. I remain incredibly grateful to you for agreeing to return to Government and for the further contribution you have made.

You have been the most loyal and dependable of colleagues, a calm and knowledgeable presence at the heart of our Government. I will always appreciate your sage and reliable advice.’

3) To David Willetts (Minister of State, BIS):

‘I was delighted when you agreed to join my Shadow Team in 2005 and the Government in 2010. I have been proud to have “two brains” at the heart of my team, both in Opposition and in Government and you, in turn, can take enormous pride in the contribution you have made.

Your work championing the Eight Great Technologies, the space industry, and long-term capital has truly solidified the UK as the best place in the world to do science and innovation. You have also been integral to our Higher Education reforms, particularly by leading our removal of the student numbers’ cap, which will have a transformative effect on the sector.’

4) To Alan Duncan (Minister of State, DFID):

‘You have continued your service on the Conservative Front Bench with a number of significant portfolios, making an outstanding contribution, both in Opposition and – over the past four years – in Government at the Department for International Development. This has been a perfect fit and your enthusiasm and commitment to the role has shone through.

In particular, I have greatly admired the passion and expertise you have brought to our work in the Middle East, which has done much to enhance the UK’s reputation in the region. It is a legacy to be proud of.’

5) To Hugh Robertson (Minister of State, FCO):

‘You have served our Front Bench continuously for over a decade, and made an outstanding contribution, both in Opposition and – over the past four years – in Government. No more so than your pivotal role helping to organise the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. You were able to participate in the preparations of the greatest sporting event in the world from bid to completion, and the start of the legacy beyond. But that in itself does not do justice to the role you played, helping ensure that London 2012 was the most spectacular and well-organised Olympics in history.

More recently, I would like to recognise the calm and sensitive way in which you have dealt with the many complex and dangerous challenges we have faced in the Middle East.’

6) To Andrew Robathan (Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office):

‘I have been proud to have you on my Front Bench, loyally serving as Deputy Chief Whip in Opposition and, in Government, as a Minister in two challenging portfolios where you have been able to bring your steady hand and experience of military service to bear.

You can be enormously proud of your achievements in Government and your contribution to our country.’

7) To Gregory Barker (Minister of State, DECC:

‘You have served continuously on the Conservative Front Bench for over a decade and I hope you can be enormously proud of all you have achieved over the years covering the related briefs of Environment and, more recently, Climate Change.

In particular, you have led successful investment into our energy infrastructure, making the UK a world-leader in renewable technology. You have established the Green Investment Bank, and mobilised over £3 billion investment into our renewables sector last year alone.’

23.09 Are some major shifts in European policy looming? James has an update on what Philip Hammond‘s promotion means for the EU.

James_Forsyth-60x84Philip Hammond‘s promotion to Foreign Secretary means that we now have a Foreign Secretary who is on the record as saying he would vote to leave the EU unless substantial powers are returned. This is a major challenge to Foreign Office orthodoxy.

Hammond isn’t the kind of politician to set the heather alight. He’s not an exciting figure or a man who delivers brilliant speeches. I suspect that Cameron has sent him to the Foreign Office as a safe pair of hands.

But the fact that someone who has said that they’d vote to leave if substantial powers were not returned to the UK in the renegotiation is now Foreign Secretary sends a clear message to the rest of the EU about the British position. Combine this with Dominic Grieve‘s departure as Attorney-General, which paves the way for the Tories to propose leaving the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, and this reshuffle could be the precursor to some major shifts in European policy.

Here’s the BBC clip, in which Philip Hammond tells the Spectator’s Andrew Neil that the EU ‘is going to change’:

22.56 Isabel has just been on Newsnight discussing Philip Hammond‘s new position:

Isabel_Hardman-60x84We are expecting to see more women being promoted, but you can’t move a woman from a very low rank in the government all the way to Foreign Secretary. It’s one of the great offices of state, so you need someone with a great deal of experience, and Philip Hammond does answer that.

Isabel Hardman on Newsnight (BBC)

Isabel Hardman on Newsnight (BBC)

Philip Hammond is definitely replacing William Hague as Foreign Secretary. How will George Osborne react to this news? He once described Hague as the ‘best foreign secretary in a generation’:

Nick Robinson reporting on William Hague‘s swan song:

22.21 News in from Fraser about a possible replacement for William Hague:

Fraser_Nelson-60x84I’m hearing that Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, replaces William Hague as Foreign Secretary. If true, there will not be much lamentation in the armed forces, who had fallen out with him. Hammond is a proud technocrat, a former deputy to Osborne and more of a number cruncher than someone brimming with ideas about Britain’s place in the world. So we can expect the position of Foreign Secretary to adopt an even lower profile than it did under William Hague. Does this mean Britain will join the European countries with a female defence secretary?

22.11 From the Foreign Office to the civil service – is no one safe tonight?

James_Forsyth-60x84Not even civil servants are exempt from this reshuffle. I hear that Bob Kerslake is going as head of the civil service.


22.00 William Hague is to quit as Foreign Secretary. Fraser Nelson and James Forsyth discuss the implications:

Here’s James’s take:

James_Forsyth-60x84William Hague is quitting as Foreign Secretary before standing down as an MP at the next election. Hague will become Leader of the House of the Commons for the remainder of this parliament.

Hague’s move changes the nature of this reshuffle, making it the most significant and far reaching of Cameron’s tenure as party leader. But it also creates a headache for him: who to make Foreign Secretary? This reshuffle’s aim is to bring on a new generation and to promote more female talent. But it is hard to see who fits that description who could become Foreign Secretary. (One person who isn’t becoming Foreign Secretary is George Osborne who is staying at the Treasury)

Hague’s departure is a surprise. But it is not a total surprise; he has not been particularly active in recent times. One long-standing colleague told me earlier that ‘I could see in William’s eyes that his heart wasn’t in it anymore’.

Friends say that the Commons’ defeat of the government over Syria took a big toll on him. There’s also no doubt that Hague, having seen how nice life could be outside politics, chaffed at the constraints that politics imposed on him. He also never much liked dealing with the media, a key part of the job nowadays. Colleagues say that constant international travel had exhausted him too, for the first time in years he has taken to complaining of being tired.

Hague’s influence on the Cameron project has often been understated. His return to the front bench in 2005 sent an immediate message that Cameron was credible. In 2010, he was the key part of the Tory coalition negotiating team. Then, in government his advice has often been decisive; he is the main reason Andrew Lansley’s Health Bill was paused. Tonight, Number 10 is stressing how involved he’ll be in domestic politics for the next 10 months and he will, undoubtedly, be a big influence on Cameron. But there’s no doubt tonight that Hague’s departure embodies the transfer of power from one Tory generation to another.

Here are statements from No 10:

The Prime Minister said:

‘William Hague has been one of the leading lights of the Conservative Party for a generation, leading the party and serving in two cabinets. Not only has he been a first class Foreign Secretary – he has also been a close confidante, a wise counsellor and a great friend. He will remain as First Secretary of State and my de facto political deputy in the run up to the election – and it is great to know that he will be a core part of the team working to ensure an outright Conservative victory at the next election.’

William Hague said:

‘By the time of the General Election next year, I will have served 26 years in the House of Commons and it will be 20 years since I first joined the Cabinet.

In government there is a balance to strike between experience on the one hand and the need for renewal on the other, and I informed the Prime Minister last summer that I would not be a candidate at the next General Election.

Accordingly I am stepping aside as Foreign Secretary, in order to focus all my efforts on supporting the government in Parliament and gaining a Conservative victory in the General Election – after 4 years in which we have transformed Britain’s links with emerging economies, significantly expanded our diplomatic network and the promotion of British exports, restored the Foreign Office as a strong institution, and set a course to a reformed European Union and a referendum on our membership of it.

I am delighted to be able to serve as Leader of the House of Commons, and to be able to campaign for Conservative candidates across the country. I want to finish in frontline politics as I began – speaking in Parliament and campaigning among the voters.

After the General Election I will return to my writing, while still giving very active support to the Conservative Party and campaigning on international causes I believe in.

I wish to thank my constituents in Richmond, Yorkshire, one of the greatest places on earth, for their emphatic support through thick and thin over such a long period. I will serve them with unabated energy between now and the General Election, and I look forward to supporting my eventual successor.’

21.42 Isabel thinks Owen Paterson may cause trouble later on:

Isabel_Hardman-60x84One of the interesting things about reshuffles is how well ministers deal with being sacked, and how well the PM handles the sacking. I hear that Owen Paterson was not at all happy about his departure. A number of his colleagues are unimpressed too. He could become the troublesome story of the reshuffle.

21.28 Here’s Fraser with confirmation that the rumours were true:

Fraser_Nelson-60x84I can confirm that Owen Paterson has been sacked  -which is, to me, a bizarre decision. He was the perfect tonic as Environment Secretary, hard-working, with a clear agenda and a means of enacting it. He immediately grasped the need to move quickly to help the development of shale gas, he was radical on GM crops and European reform. A man not just of belief, but of action – and one of the most reliable Eurosceptics in the Cabinet. I can’t see what his offence was, rather than being middle-age man. But then again it’s a night of the long knives for middle-aged men: I hear at least a dozen will be gone from the government before midnight. With one very big departure not yet announced.

21.20 Guido are reporting that transport minister Stephen Hammond is out.

21.09 Greg Barker, Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change, has quit. Here’s Isabel:

Isabel_Hardman-60x84Greg Barker has resigned as energy minister. It was his own decision, which he informed the Prime Minister of at the weekend. But perhaps one of the things he considered when he was mulling his position was that the government was increasingly uncomfortable with a minister who loves greenery quite so much as he does. The ‘green crap’ was taken out at the last Autumn Statement, and George Osborne isn’t particularly keen on re-greening the party. But Barker had recently mounted a bit of a comeback campaign for green Tories. Perhaps he feels that he is better placed to continue this outside of government.

20.40 Here’s Isabel on the whispers about Owen Paterson:


There are rumours that Owen Paterson will be sacked tonight, and they’re not going down well with Conservative eurosceptics. One mutters to me that he’s one of the few that the really robust eurosceptic wing can still trust. If he is sacked as Environment Secretary, then Cameron will need to show that he still cares about the eurosceptic wing of the Conservative party by promoting other prominent voices. Priti Patel would be a good choice as she is very able, ripe for a bigger role, and is a former EU rebel. She is also a woman from an ethnic minority, and therefore in short supply in the Tory party.

20.38 Sky News is reporting that Dominic Grieve is going as Attorney General. The significance of this is that it clears the major obstacle to the Tories proposing leaving the ECHR in their manifesto.

20.33 This reshuffle could herald a more radical period for the government, suggests James:

James_Forsyth-60x84One consequence of the promotion of a slew of 2010 MPs to the junior ministerial ranks will be to tilt the ideological balance of the government towards the reformist right. The 2010 intake, who all entered parliament in the post-crash world, is—in general—more radical than previous generations of Tories. Compounding this is that many of the ministers who have gone—Damian Green, Alan Duncan—come from the Wet side of the party.

20.28 Here’s James on the messages contained in this reshuffle:

James_Forsyth-60x84The message of this reshuffle so far is that if you are a male minister who didn’t enter parliament in 2010, then you are vulnerable. The middle ranks of the government are being quietly devastated tonight as Cameron seeks to make room for the 2010 intake and to promote more female ministers. There is fevered speculation among Tory MPs that there is a larger shoe to drop tonight.

20.10 Damian Green, Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims, has been sacked.

19.50 Andrew Robathan, Minister of State for Northern Ireland, has left his position.

19.47 James has news that David Willetts, Minister for Universities, is standing down:

James_Forsyth-60x84David Willetts is stepping down as Universities Minister and is leaving the Commons at the next election. Willetts is one of the most intellectually interesting people in British politics and I expect that there’ll be a slew of ideas coming from him between now and his departure from the Commons.

19.28 Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, has confirmed his departure via Twitter:

19.24 James Forsyth reports that Alan Duncan, Minister of State for International Development, is leaving government at his own request.  18.55 Earlier today, James Forsyth suggested Esther McVey might become Minister Without Portfolio. As Ken Clarke is shuffled out (presumably giving him more time to enjoy the cricket), Isabel suggests McVey might need to appear less aggressive on television if she is handed the role:

Isabel_Hardman-60x84Ken Clarke may be off to enjoy a bit more time at the cricket, but who will replace the Minister Without Portfolio? On this morning’s look ahead video (watch here), James suggested that Esther McVey would replace him, with a particular focus on broadcast appearances. McVey is a former television presenter, so she is much more than just an MP who does broadcast well. But there is a bit of a difference between presenting and appearing as the minister who defends the government. Though McVey is very telegenic and helps the Tory brand by being a Liverpudlian woman rather than a Home Counties bloke, she can appear very aggressive in broadcast appearances, sometimes unnecessarily so. Perhaps this is as a result of her tenure at the DWP, which is constantly under attack from what its ministers perceive to be a left-wing BBC, but McVey will need to adopt different tones when she pops up in this new role, if she is indeed destined for it.


18.41 Back in 2012, Alex Massie wrote how Ken Clarke was a political giant mistreated by his youngers and lessers:

Alex_Massie‘Why does Ken matter? Because he had, indeed has, a hinterland. The Hush Puppies, the cigars, the real ale, the jazz and the cricket are more than fripperies or mere stylistic adornment. They gave Clarke bottom. You might – indeed many did – disagree with him but these things helped make him seem a man of some substance who had – and enjoyed – a life beyond politics. He hasn’t needed to pretend. Clarke has been a politician and a Member of Parliament since 1970, but he’s never seemed a career politician in quite the same manner as many of his successors and younger colleagues so often seem to be.  Authenticity is a rare commodity in modern politics and Clarke is one of the few who has that unforced, plainly evident, quality. It helps that he can be candid and admit mistakes too.’

18.38 Isabel on a rumour doing the rounds:

Isabel_Hardman-60x84In terms of what we can expect from this evening, it looks as though the announcements will predominantly be sackings. But there is a rumour that there may be a big announcement at some point tonight, possibly an unexpected retirement.

18.03 James is keeping an eye on the cars arriving at parliament:

James_Forsyth-60x84There are a lot of ministerial cars pulling into parliament at the moment, prompting speculation that they are all carrying ministers who are about to be sacked or moved. Ken Clarke and the Welsh Secretary David Jones are both confirmed as leaving the government. But I am told that Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, who is on the parliamentary estate, is not here to see the Prime Minister and so presumably isn’t moving.

17.43 Here’s Isabel with news of the first casualties:

Isabel_Hardman-60x84In the past few minutes, David Jones has confirmed to ITV that he has been sacked as Welsh Secretary, while Ken Clarke has left his position as Minister without Portfolio. Neither change was particularly unexpected, with the latter having been a dead cert for a while. Tonight is, as James explained on our video look ahead earlier, the night of the sackings, but the Prime Minister appears to have started in time for newspaper page deadlines, which means that the reshuffle will have at least one day’s worth of bloody headlines.

17.30 David Jones, Secretary of State for Wales, has been sacked.

17.29 Welcome to Coffee House’s live blog for David Cameron’s latest government reshuffle. We’ll be bringing you the latest developments.

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