Government sources promised a shock cabinet change as part of the reshuffle, and they weren’t wrong: William Hague has resigned as Foriegn Secretary. He will also step down as an MP at the general election, after 26 years in parliament, and will serve as Leader of the House of Commons until then. In addition, David Cameron has said, he will remain his “de facto political deputy” and play a “key campaigning role”.
The move was not expected, but it also does not come as a complete surprise. Hague had hinted in recent months that he was preparing to step down and he appeared to have lost some of his passion for the frontline. In an interview with The House Magazine in June, for instance, he said: “I came back into politics specifically to do this job and I regard it as my last big job in politics.”
Speculation has immediately turned to who will succeed him, with Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, regarded as the likeliest candidate. Other possible replacements, such as George Osborne (who has been tipped to become Foreign Secretary after 2015), Theresa May and Michael Gove, will all remain in their current posts.
Here’s Hague’s statement on his decision:
By the time of the general election next year, I will have served 26 years in the House of Commons and it will be 20 years since I first joined the cabinet. In government there is a balance to strike between experience on the one hand and the need for renewal on the other, and I informed the prime minister last summer that I would not be a candidate at the next general election.
Accordingly I am stepping aside as foreign secretary, in order to focus all my efforts on supporting the government in parliament and gaining a Conservative victory in the general election – after four years in which we have transformed Britain’s links with emerging economies, significantly expanded our diplomatic network and the promotion of British exports, restored the Foreign Office as a strong institution, and set a course to a reformed European Union and a referendum on our membership of it.
And here’s Cameron’s:
William Hague has been one of the leading lights of the Conservative Party for a generation, leading the party and serving in two cabinets. Not only has he been a first class foreign secretary – he has also been a close confidante, a wise counsellor and a great friend. He will remain as first secretary of state and my de facto political deputy in the run up to the election – and it is great to know that he will be a core part of the team working to ensure an outright Conservative victory at the next election.