When you have to remind your boss of the job you do in your resignation letter, usually it is a sign that leaving is the right option. Clearly you have lost their confidence. Your choice is to be ignored or to try things on the outside.
Warsi may have resigned on a point of principle and out of pique and self aggrandisement. They do not have to be mutually exclusive. A junior minister resigning due to foreign policy over Israel will not cause the government to miss a step.
With the centenary of the First World War, the resignations of several cabinet members in the build up then really were significant but did not change foreign policy. Those were also on a point of principle. Perhaps it is too rare a thing in modern politics.
Warsi was everything a rebranded Conservative Party needed. True, she was never elected an MP. However, she had drive, brains, she came from an ethnic minority and faith, and as from Yorkshire you could be sure she was all woman and much more. From the House of Lords she was given a place at the cabinet table, that her status as a junior minister did not otherwise warrant.
The problem for Government was she felt this made her an equal player at the table. The briefings before the recent reshuffle and since her resignation indicate she was not considered so. Inside government, instead of being a team player, she ran her own issue parallel platform. Challenging the government line on extremism while promoting faith initiatives at it’s heart saying it was “the most pro-faith government in the world.”
She stressed all faith at the high table of public policy, while treating secularist concerns as from “fundamentalists”. For example in the Cambridge speech (that I wrote on here) she also said:
I was concerned with what I saw was public policy being secularised.
To the extent that Christmas was being downgraded.
Giving religion a voice at the top table. Not a privileged position, but an equal informer of the debate.
It is only fair to point out Islamists hated her too for not being a political Islamist. She wanted the Church of England strengthened, recognising the church’s reinforcing faith in public furthered her own views of religious pluralism involved at highest levels of public policy.
The result of all this – secularists, Islamists, progressives and inner Cabinet members all had grievances with her. At the reshuffle key allies of her happened to be removed. It was becoming clear with the “Trojan Horse plot” public institutions like schools were being used to enforce narrow religious views on children.
The public face of religious faith, the most prominent woman and Muslim invited to the Cabinet table was no longer the photogenic asset for the government. Other women had leapfrogged her. Not unreasonably, she might have been getting tired of playing the typecast – she had ideas and things to do. As her remit played with values Conservative voters, her behind the scenes haranguing was barely tolerated. It was better in the tent, even if she did sometimes piss people off.
So Cameron – under pressure to have more women in the Cabinet in the last reshuffle before the election – really could not dismiss her. However, there was no desire to promote her. To a position where rather than trying to influence, she might actually set the agenda. Warsi’s tragedy was not to realise the need to be a team player or to be extraordinarily competent. The result: she was never going to go higher but sacking her was too costly politically. However much pressure there was for her dismissal.
For the insults flying around, Warsi is smart enough to realise all this. Maybe she was prepared to see it out till the General Election. She might have seen a way to try and influence the arms review supplying Israel. Still tried to shape how the education department tackled religion in state schools. If the current ceasefire holds, how a lasting political settlement for the Palestinians and Israel might be helped by foreign policy.
We all know she was not in a position to do those things. She might have been at the table, but she had not been invited to change things unless told to do so. Attending otherwise as the spectre at the feast. Eventually the appearance of power wears thin when you realise you need to change things, to stamp your mark. Yet no one lets you.
Her exit, when we may be near the end of the month long Operation Protective Edge, is late in the day, but just in time to catch the headlines. The chance for her to talk about the principles and ideas she has while in the news cycle. To build on a political career outside of government to rapturous applause for having a principle.
While some are trashing her for using Gaza as a self serving platform for herself (see cartoon) it is no less a play than the timing of Russia Today journalists suddenly finding a conscience to resign. Then being invited to talk about your views at length to fill air time for a day of two.
The illusion of power drains whether it is all about you, or you really have big ideas to change the world. What her resignation boils down to, is Warsi being accused of playing politics to further herself and her ideas. Which is a ludicrous charge to level at a politician. Of course she will, if that is the only way.
She might have wanted to be Foreign Secretary, though she did not show that competence to her boss for that. Now the world is listening to her over Gaza and Israel. I am just glad she is no longer in Government. While I doubt she will affect government policy, she could be used as a thorn in the government’s side by opponents. Rather than a wrecking ball as they will try to make her out to be.
For those talking about the impact on the government, may I just remind you of Clare Short?
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog