Coffee House

Sacked minister spills the reshuffle beans

19 September 2012

In tomorrow’s Spectator, an anonymous former minister recounts their experiences of David Cameron’s reshuffle. They describe the walk in to see the Prime Minister – through the back entrance where the cameras cannot see ministers arrive – and the way the Prime Minister tries to placate them by explaining that there are ‘303 someone elses’ that he needs to keep happy. You can read the full copy below, or in the magazine from tomorrow:

Divorce is something I have yet to experience personally but Dave’s reshuffle has set me up nicely for any future threat to my own nuptial bliss. Out of the blue comes the call. It’s Dave’s office. ‘We need to talk — can you come over?’ And better I come round the back way to 10 Downing St, apparently, because there’s workmen all over the place at the front. And thus the bell tolls: on reshuffle day, winners are invited through the front door to smile for the cameras. The victims are roughed up around the back.

Tentatively, I turn up at Dave’s office. His flunkies, who usually don’t give you the time of day on your rare visits to the No. 10 bunker, are eerily fawning. Dave bounces out of his sofa, the air permeated with an uncharacteristic whiff of contrition. Something is definitely up. ‘Thanks for coming. Look there’s something I really need to tell you and I’m afraid it’s not good news.’ ‘What on earth is it?’ I simper.

What follows was horribly like what one’s wife might say before booting you out. It went something like this: ‘You have done a fantastic job. You have led a fantastic reform programme. I have no complaints about anything, you’ve done nothing wrong.’ The political equivalent of ‘it’s not you, it’s me.’

Claim your gift

I respond in the manner of jilted husbands down the ages. ‘Is there someone else?’

‘Err, well actually there is.’
‘Who is she?’ I snap.
‘Well, it’s Matt actually.’
‘And Anna, and Brandon, and Liz, and there’s Hugo from a while back who’s back in town.’

‘WTF?’ I mouth uncontrollably.

‘Well, to be honest, there’s actually 303 someone elses and I’ve got to keep them all satisfied, and that’s no mean feat. I’m sure you understand.’

This was the general gist. Dave went on:

‘Anyway, as I say, it’s been a blast and you should feel really chuffed with everything you have contributed. Now I want to make things as easy as possible for you and I am sure you won’t want to be bothered with looking after that big old rambling house of yours, so I have already had a word with Mrs Thrasher and she has arranged to crate up all your stuff and ship it over to the Westminster flat. You’ll be much more comfortable there.’

My head is still spinning. Is it actually really my fault? Suddenly seized by the reality of my new and reduced standing, I leave Dave’s office — the flunkies are now all strangely absent. I duly dodge the photographers and wander the streets a while before returning to the Department I have been privileged to call home for the last two and a bit years. It is a quickie divorce like no other. Those facilities operatives from the Departmental basement whom I have been nagging unsuccessfully to hang some pictures in the ministerial office for months have transmogrified into a rapid reaction force par excellence. My ministerial substance is reduced to crates, any traces of my ex-ministerial DNA clinically removed as the office is deep-cleaned. The final blow: my name has already been removed from the door and from the Departmental website.

So it’s official: I am an un-minister. The press office photographer is lurking, already readying the lens to snap an image of Dave’s new best friend, who will have his feet under my ex-desk before nightfall. Dave and I are history.

But what follows for most half-decent ministers at least is equally disorientating. A flow of letters, emails and texts, from all sorts of people you have never heard of, full of indignation over your defenestration, telling you how you were the best-ever minister for X, and will be sorely missed. Just as the looming fate of ministers was reported by Twitter, so the valedictories come thick and fast on social media. He/she touched the lives of so many in the widget sector and will be hard to replace — RIP.

It makes me wonder: what about the real obituaries, when I am physically dead, not just ministerially deceased? At least I have had a sneak preview, and it focuses the mind. The remaining time of an un-minister can now hopefully be deployed to one’s long-suffering spouse, which might just save one’s real marriage. Dave did say he was pro-­family, after all.

Give the perfect gift this Christmas. Buy a subscription for a friend for just £75 and you’ll receive a free gift too. Buy now.

Show comments
  • RobEgerton

    So you were a useless minister and got the sack. Shame we can’t sack you as an MP. Yet.

  • TomTom

    nicely written – job at Speccie

  • Corinium

    Oh yes, and James Duddridge who lost his job as a Whip. He would have made an excellent Treasury Minister.

  • Corinium

    I can think of a good Minister who lost his job – Bob Neil.

    • David Martin

      aka Bob Neill.

      I’d be surprised if he’s the author.

  • Steve Tierney

    I really liked that article. Thanks.

    • David Martin

      I enjoyed reading it too. But I thought there might have been some informed speculation about who this ex-minister is. Male, unless “I respond in the manner of jilted husbands down the ages” is a ploy (so no need for the ugly “their” for “his”). Someone with a sense of humour – though enough conceit to feel badly done by – and the ability to string together sentences in a sub-Alan Clark sort of way. A Tory rather than a Lib-Dem.

      So who?

      • David Martin

        Later: In the Independent Andy McSmith suggests the (now ex-) schools minister Nick Gibb.

  • ButcombeMan

    Pathetic. Utterly pathetic.

    Chaos in the world and someone at the Speccie thinks this is good copy and there is nothing more important to discuss..

    I constantly recall why I stopped buying the paper edition

    Fraser please get a grip..

  • Charlie the Chump

    Once again why do I subscribe to the mag when the few things I find interesting are released early here?

  • Bruce, UK

    Dear Unlamented Self-Pitying Whinger,

    Which part of “all political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure” did you not understand?

    If your juncture was not happy, why was that?

  • UlyssesReturns

    Four points occur to me.

    The first is: I cannot think of a single minister who lost their position in the reshuffle who was any good and should have lasted as long as they did.

    Secondly: Virtually not one of the many that I have had to remove from their position thought it was justifiable and this is almost a universal truth.

    Thirdly: I cannot recall this attention on ministers who have lost their jobs before – is this a new age when ex-ministers air their poor performance grievances and lack of self-awareness in public? If so it is a most lamentable state of affairs and extremely disloyal to the government and their party.

    Last but not least: Who gives a damn about some no-hoper politician who wasn’t up to the job.

    • Jen

      Third point – the reshuffles used to happen a lot more frequently perhaps?

    • George

      This is typical of nihilistic comments that are now made on sites like this. You really can’t think of any ministers who were any good? Try Edward Garnier QC and Nick Gibb for a start.

      You’d be hard pressed to name any of the ministers who were sacked but you have an anti-politics point to make so justify it with an assertion that only the half-witted would agree with.

      • telemacharse

        Garnier and Gibb were both mediocre and by your reckoning I must be half-witted because I agree with Ullyses.

    • Jamie

      Tim Loughton was excellent, Tele – sorry, Ulysses.

      • UlyssesReturns

        Yes, his excellent work to speed up adoptions was so, so successful was it not? Another one who talks a lot and implements sod all while adoption rates slowed down. And any confusion of me with the troll telemachus is an insult too far even for one as mild as I to accept. Tosser.

    • M. Wenzl

      First point – Ken Clarke? Or isn’t he right-wing enough?

    • RobEgerton

      Hurrah! Well said.

  • David Cockerham

    “an anonymous former minister recounts their experiences”?? Which sub-editor thought this grammar OK?

    • Salisbury

      Obviously the “their” is done to disguise whether it is a his or a her.

      A more pertinent question is which editor thought this silly, self-indulgent piece was worth the space. Reshuffles happen; ministers get sacked often without having done anything particularly wrong. I don’t suppose Cameron enjoyed the experience any more than the guy or girl who got the chop, but I think we are meant to read this and somehow think the worse of him for it.

      • ArchiePonsonby

        And I think that you missed Cockerham’s point…………..hugely!

  • Alan Eastwood

    Dear former minister, Just think, You will live to fight another day. When the fickle finger of fate eventually points at Cameron, that is it. Lights out. It cannot come soon enough for me.

Can't find your Web ID? Click here