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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Why relations between Theresa May and Philip Hammond became tense so quickly

The political imperative of controlling immigration is clashing with the economic imperative of maintaining growth. 

There is no relationship in government more important than that between the prime minister and the chancellor. When Theresa May entered No.10, she chose Philip Hammond, a dependable technocrat and long-standing ally who she had known since Oxford University. 

But relations between the pair have proved far tenser than anticipated. On Wednesday, Hammond suggested that students could be excluded from the net migration target. "We are having conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration," he told the Treasury select committee. The Chancellor, in common with many others, has long regarded the inclusion of students as an obstacle to growth. 

The following day Hammond was publicly rebuked by No.10. "Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included," a spokesman said (as I reported in advance, May believes that the public would see this move as "a fix"). 

This is not the only clash in May's first 100 days. Hammond was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's criticisms of loose monetary policy (which forced No.10 to state that it "respects the independence of the Bank of England") and is resisting tougher controls on foreign takeovers. The Chancellor has also struck a more sceptical tone on the UK's economic prospects. "It is clear to me that the British people did not vote on June 23 to become poorer," he declared in his conference speech, a signal that national prosperity must come before control of immigration. 

May and Hammond's relationship was never going to match the remarkable bond between David Cameron and George Osborne. But should relations worsen it risks becoming closer to that beween Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like Hammond, Darling entered the Treasury as a calm technocrat and an ally of the PM. But the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis transformed him into a far more assertive figure.

In times of turmoil, there is an inevitable clash between political and economic priorities. As prime minister, Brown resisted talk of cuts for fear of the electoral consequences. But as chancellor, Darling was more concerned with the bottom line (backing a rise in VAT). By analogy, May is focused on the political imperative of controlling immigration, while Hammond is focused on the economic imperative of maintaining growth. If their relationship is to endure far tougher times they will soon need to find a middle way. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.