After disagreeing with the Prime Minister on a great deal for a great while, Baroness Warsi has this morning resigned from the government, citing its position on Gaza. She tweeted a few minutes ago:
With deep regret I have this morning written to the Prime Minister & tendered my resignation. I can no longer support Govt policy on #Gaza
— Sayeeda Warsi (@SayeedaWarsi) August 5, 2014
There had been a concerted campaign in the Conservative party from senior figures with a great deal of influence to get Warsi moved. They felt she was being deeply unhelpful to Downing Street, particularly by going on ITV’s The Agenda and posing with a front page about Eton Mess. But the judgement that the Prime Minister and others took was that it is far safer to keep Warsi, who is a prolific diary-writer, safely in the tent, rather than outside. That she has gone of her own accord does at least mean she will not be tempted to exact revenge. But it’s by no means safe to bet that she will stay silent. She has resigned because she disagrees with the government position on Gaza, and presumably she will want to elaborate on what precisely she disagrees with, at the very least.
As for whether this has a seriously destabilising effect on the government’s foreign policy, Warsi’s insecure position does not necessarily mean that ministers can simply shrug her criticisms off. They come just a few days after Ed Miliband argued that the Prime Minister was not being sufficiently robust in his dealings with Israel. Then, Downing Street accused the Labour leader of playing politics, and Chris Grayling even went so far as to say he was undermining Britain’s efforts to secure peace. It is one thing to say that of an Opposition leader, but if one of your Conservative colleagues makes the same accusation – and the detail of the gripe leading to her resignation may well turn out to be in the same vein as Miliband’s criticism – it is quite a different matter. It gives credence to Miliband’s line if a Foreign Office minister feels she cannot support the government’s position.
UPDATE, 10.07: Here is Warsi’s resignation letter:
UPDATE, 10.15: We’re still waiting for the Prime Minister’s response to Warsi’s resignation. But here’s what one of her Tory colleagues had to say to me:
‘Self-indulgent, arrogant, hypocritical, and now a non-entity. She jumped before Dave pushed her after the election.’
Some of her colleagues wonder whether she might defect to Labour: there was certainly a fear that she would do so if pushed before the General Election.
UPDATE, 11.05: Finally, Downing Street responds:
‘The Prime Minister regrets that Baroness Warsi has decided to stand down and is grateful for the excellent work that she has done both as a Minister and in Opposition.
‘Our policy has always been consistently clear – the situation in Gaza is intolerable and we’ve urged both sides to agree to an immediate and unconditional ceasefire.’