Junior Foreign Office minister Mark Simmonds has resigned. Photo: Getty
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Second Foreign Office Minister resigns in a week

Mark Simmonds leaves the Government.

Mark Simmonds, the junior Foregin Office minister with responsibility for Africa, has resigned from the Government, according to No 10.

The Prime Minister’s spokeswoman said Simmonds’ resignation was not related to the UK Government’s handling of Gaza, which was the reason Baroness Warsi gave for her resignation from the Cabinet last Tuesday.

Downing Street said that the promotion of Philip Hammond to Foreign Secretary in the reshuffle was also unrelated.

Simmonds wrote to David Cameron several weeks ago saying he has decided not to stand in his Boston and Skegness seat at the general election next May. He was praised by the Prime Minister, but tensions had risen after Simmonds missed last summer’s vote on British intervention in Syria because he was in a meeting with Justine Greening, the International Development Secretary, on the parliamentary estate.

No 10 said that Simmonds had agreed to resign at the time of last month's reshuffle, but stayed on in post to chair a meeting last week of the UN Security Council on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

He will be replaced by MP James Duddridge.

Lucy Fisher writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2013. She tweets @LOS_Fisher.

 

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Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.