Sir Alan Duncan became the first minister to resign from the government today, ahead of Boris Johnson’s likely promotion to become the next prime minister. In a letter to Theresa May handing in his resignation, Duncan said that he had left government before the expected change on Wednesday so he could be ‘free to express my views in advance of you relinquishing office.’
But while Sir Alan would no doubt like to present his departure as a ‘principled’ refusal to serve in a Johnson administration, Mr S has to wonder if that’s really credible, considering the Foreign Office minister’s own various positions on Brexit (and Boris) in the past.
Here are a selection of Duncan’s highlights:
Leaving Vote Leave
In 2016 it was reported that Duncan had lobbied Matthew Elliott, the chief executive of Vote Leave, to join the board of the organisation ahead of the Brexit referendum.
When he was snubbed, Duncan decided instead to campaign for Remain, and went on to accuse his pro-Brexit colleagues of offering a ‘fanciful pretence’.
Throwing a tantrum
If Sir Alan wasn’t a fan of Vote Leave, he almost certainly doesn’t hold Brexit voters in high regard either. In 2017 at a speech in Chicago, the minister said Brexit was about the British working class throwing a ‘tantrum’ about immigration in the referendum, and the English were complaining about Europeans taking jobs they refused to do themselves.
Clearly a graceful loser, in the same speech Duncan also argued there should have been a super-majority required for Leave to win the referendum in 2016, as there had been in previous devolution referendums in the UK.
In 2018, readers may remember that Alan Duncan took particular offence when Boris Johnson compared Theresa May’s Brexit negotiating position to wearing a suicide vest. After the incident, Duncan thundered online that:
‘For Boris to say that the PM’s view is like that of a suicide bomber is too much. This marks one of the most disgusting moments in modern British politics. I’m sorry, but this is the political end of Boris Johnson. If it isn’t now, I will make sure it is later. #neverfittogovern’
But Sir Alan hasn’t always been this careful about language. In 2005, he even compared the members of his own party to the Taliban in a Guardian column.
Perhaps the reason Duncan waited until now to resign from government is that he was loathe to give up his ministerial salary.
In the aftermath of the MPs’ expenses scandal in 2009, when Duncan was roundly criticised for claiming thousands of pounds from the taxpayer to spend on his garden, the MP complained that no one would want to stand for parliament any more, as: ‘Basically, it’s being nationalised, you have to live on rations and are treated like ****.’
Meanwhile, Duncan leaves his position as second of command in the Foreign Office while there is a state of crisis underway in the Strait of Hormuz, after Iran hijacked a British tanker. In two days the Secretary of State of the department, Jeremy Hunt, may lose his job, so you might think it helpful to have ministers stick around as Britain clashes with Iran. Duncan clearly has other things on his mind though.
So is Sir Alan really resigning for the good of the country? Mr S isn’t convinced…