Number 10 has today announced that Mark Simmonds, the Conservative MP for Boston and Skegness, is stepping down as a Foreign Office minister – and will not stand as an MP at the next election.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said that ‘the decision was made before the situation in Gaza and Israel had developed’ and that he had told the Prime Minister he wanted to step down on 4 August.
Indeed, David Cameron’s reply to Simmonds’ resignation letter says, rather pointedly:
‘This is something we agreed some weeks ago and a decision I know you have given a huge amount of thought to over recent months.’
Even if his decision has nothing to do with the government’s foreign policy (Baroness Warsi did hint that other FCO ministers had disagreed with the official line on Gaza), it means the Foreign Office now contains even fewer experienced politicians after William Hague’s departure. Simmonds has been replaced by James Duddridge.
I understand that Simmonds’ decision is related to his own constituency. One of his party colleagues tells me:
‘He’s under massive pressure in his constituency. Party infrastructure evaporated. UKIP all over him.’
And he has told his local paper that the impact on his young family has been ‘so huge and so negative that I’m not prepared to tolerate it anymore’.
Here is the full exchange of letters between Simmonds and the Prime Minister:
Click on the images to view a larger version.