Ken Clarke arrives in Downing Street earlier today. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Ken Clarke resigns as Cameron's reshuffle begins

One Nation veteran steps down from the government before he is pushed.

Update 21:36pm

The resuffle is continuing, with Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, Attorney General Dominic Grieve, Leader of the House of Commons Andrew Lansley all unofficially confirmed to have left the cabinet. Meanwhile, rumours are swirling round Westminster of a shock departure, with William Hague thought to be the most likely candidate. 

Of note is that the two biggest Conservative supporters of the European Convention on Human Rights, Grieve and Ken Clarke, have both left, paving the way for a possible Conservative manifesto pledge to withdraw from the treaty. 

Update 19:38pm

Universities minister David Willetts, who attended cabinet, has announced his resignation, along with International Development minister Alan Duncan and "Big Society" minister Nick Hurd.

David Cameron's final cabinet reshuffle of this parliament has begun. The PM is currently meeting those Conservative ministers leaving the government in his Commons office in order to spare them the walk of shame up Downing Street. By contrast, those who are being elevated to the cabinet, will be paraded in full view of the TV cameras tomorrow. 

The first to depart are Ken Clarke, who was serving as minister without portfolio (having been demoted from Justice Secretary in 2012), and David Jones, the Welsh Secretary. Of note is that Clarke's resignation means this will be the first Tory-led government since 1972 not to feature him on the frontbench. And, as I wrote last week, his departure, to be followed by that of Chief Whip George Young, means the cabinet will be left without a One Nation flag-bearer

In response to his sacking, Jones told ITV News: "It's not been a bad run - I've had four years as a minister, two years as Secretary of State." He added that Cameron was "very kind" and made it clear that the reshuffle was about "freshening up the team". Jones is best known for warning, at the time of the equal marriage bill, that same sex partners could not provide "a warm and safe environment for the upbringing of children". He and Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, who is also expected to be sacked, were the only Conservative cabinet ministers to vote against the legislation. 

Reshuffle

Out

Ken Clarke (Minister without Portfolio)

Dominic Grieve (Attorney General) 

David Jones (Secretary of State for Wales)

Andrew Lansley (Leader of the House of Commons) 

Owen Paterson (Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 

David Willetts (Universities Minister)

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Recess confidential: Labour's liquid party

Sniffing out the best stories from Westminster, including Showsec, soames, and Smith-side splits.

If you are celebrating in a brewery, don’t ask Labour to provide the drinks. Because of the party’s continuing failure to secure a security contractor for its Liverpool conference, it is still uncertain whether the gathering will take place at all. Since boycotting G4S, the usual supplier, over its links with Israeli prisons, Labour has struggled to find an alternative. Of the five firms approached, only one – Showsec – offered its services. But the company’s non-union-recognition policy is inhibiting an agreement. The GMB, the firm’s antagonist, has threatened to picket the conference if Showsec is awarded the contract. In lieu of a breakthrough, sources suggest two alternatives: the police (at a cost of £59.65 per constable per hour), or the suspension of the G4S boycott. “We’ll soon find out which the Corbynites dislike the least,” an MP jested. Another feared that the Tories’ attack lines will write themselves: “How can Labour be trusted with national security if it can’t organise its own?”

Farewell, then, to Respect. The left-wing party founded in 2004 and joined by George Galloway after his expulsion from Labour has officially deregistered itself.

“We support Corbyn’s Labour Party,” the former MP explained, urging his 522,000 Facebook followers to sign up. “The Labour Party does not belong to one man,” replied Jess Phillips MP, who also pointed out in the same tweet that Respect had “massively failed”. Galloway, who won 1.4 per cent of the vote in this year’s London mayoral election, insists that he is not seeking to return to Labour. But he would surely be welcomed by Jeremy Corbyn’s director of communications, Seumas Milne, whom he once described as his “closest friend”. “We have spoken almost daily for 30 years,” Galloway boasted.

After Young Labour’s national committee voted to endorse Corbyn, its members were aggrieved to learn that they would not be permitted to promote his candidacy unless Owen Smith was given equal treatment. The leader’s supporters curse more “dirty tricks” from the Smith-sympathetic party machine.

Word reaches your mole of a Smith-side split between the ex-shadow cabinet ministers Lisa Nandy and Lucy Powell. The former is said to be encouraging the challenger’s left-wing platform, while the latter believes that he should make a more centrist pitch. If, as expected, Smith is beaten by Corbyn, it’s not only the divisions between the leader and his opponents that will be worth watching.

Nicholas Soames, the Tory grandee, has been slimming down – so much so, that he was congratulated by Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, on his weight loss. “Soon I’ll be able to give you my old suits!” Soames told the similarly rotund Watson. 

Kevin Maguire is away

I'm a mole, innit.

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron: the legacy of a loser