Tracey Crouch has resigned as a minister at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, over the Government’s handling of reforms to the rules around fixed-odds betting terminals. I don’t know much about the policy or the events that preceded this, but I know enough about Tracey Crouch to be confident that this is exactly what it seems to be: a minister resigning on point of principle because she could no longer defend the Government’s position on an important issue. If that sounds unusual and perhaps even a bit old-fashioned (politicians don’t do that sort of thing these days, do they?) then that’s probably because Crouch is that sort of politician – the sort who remains an essentially normal, decent human being despite holding high public office.
And more to the point, the sort who doesn’t value that office more highly than other things in life that most non-political folk would naturally see as more important than the job you do: things like happiness, family, self-respect. None of this is to denigrate other politicians who seek and retain high office, making compromises and sacrifices to do so: pretty much every politician I’ve ever known has had moments of doubt and discomfort at the thought that they were doing small things they were ashamed of, in order to do big things they were proud of. My aim here is simply to urge a moment of admiration for Tracey Crouch, the sort of politician who could give politics a good name.
It is routine, in a world where politics often resembles a Twitter spat and where our view of MPs is indelibly coloured by the Daily Telegraph’s revelations about MPs’ expenses to start from the assumption that all politicians are self-serving vermin who will cling to office at all costs and enrich themselves by any means after their inevitable fall.
That feeling is a key element of the appetite for populists: I doubt Jeremy Corbyn would be where he is today if the Telegraph hadn’t broken that story, or that Britain would have voted Leave, and I speak as someone who worked on it. (To be clear, I’m not suggesting that the MPs expenses’ saga created Corbynism or Brexit; rather, it encapsulated a sentiment that was a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for them.)
Of course, the boring truth is that most MPs are less excitingly venal than all that. Some are good, some are bad, most are somewhere in between. Tracey Crouch can be placed firmly at the positive end of that spectrum.
In the coverage of her resignation, you’ll read a lot of people – Tories, Labour, journalists – saying nice things about her. Just as you should with her resignation, you should take those things at face value, because they’re true. Oddly enough, her resignation is the best evidence of all for why this government, like any government, needs more ministers like Tracey Crouch.