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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What the "critical" UK terrorist threat level means

The security services believe that Salman Abedi, was not a lone operator but part of a wider cell.

Following the Manchester bombing, the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (an inter-agency organisation comprised of 16 different agencies) has raised the UK's threat level from "Severe" to "Critical", the highest possible level.

What does that mean? It doesn't mean, as per some reports, that an attack is believed to be or is definitely imminent, but that one could be imminent.

It suggests that the security services believe that Salman Abedi, was not a lone operator but part of a wider cell that is still at large and may be planning further attacks. As the BBC's Dominic Casciani explains, one reason why attacks of this sort are rare is that they are hard to do without help, which can raise suspicions among counter-terrorism officials or bring would-be perpetrators into contact with people who are already being monitored by security services.

That, as the Times reports, Abedi recently returned from Libya suggests his was an attack that was either "enabled" - that is, he was provided with training and possibly material by international jihadist groups  - or "directed", as opposed to the activities of lone attackers, which are "inspired" by other attacks but not connected to a wider plot.

The hope is that, as with the elevated threat level in 2006 and 2007, it will last only a few days while Abedi's associates are located by the security services, as will the presence of the armed forces in lieu of armed police at selected locations like Parliament, cultural institutions and the like, designed to free up specialist police capacity.

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

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