As Prime Minister, you get something of a pass on those Cabinet members that you inherit from your predecessor. So, Michael Fallon’s resignation as Defence Secretary was not a devastating blow to Theresa May. After all, it was David Cameron who had first appointed Fallon to that job. But the responsibility for Damian Green’s presence in the Cabinet is Theresa May’s alone.
Green is as close a political ally of hers as it is possible to be. He was heavily involved in her leadership campaign and on becoming Prime Minister, she immediately elevated him to the Cabinet. After the election disaster, she turned to him to shore up her position. She promoted him to First Secretary of State – the number two slot in the Cabinet – and gave him the responsibility for rebuilding her relationship with the many ministers who felt bruised by how they had been treated by her former chiefs of staff, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill. If he has to go, the consequences for Theresa May would be dire.
There is also a question mark about how easily the government could function without Green. He has known May since Oxford and is trusted enough by her to take decisions on her behalf. This has improved the speed of decision making in government and reduced the Number 10 bottleneck which was reaching unmanageable proportions before the election. Ministers fear that without Green, the government would be paralysed. His departure would tip some ministers into thinking that effective and efficient government required a new Prime Minister.
For all these reasons, May will be hoping that the Cabinet Office inquiry clears Green. But in the current circumstances, few would have much confidence in predicting what will happen next.